July 26, 2011 / 3:50 PM / 7 years ago

Jailed Afghan kids need health, study help: Official

KABUL (Reuters) - Across Afghanistan there are about 850 children in juvenile rehabilitation centers who lack access to adequate food, health and education, and there is inadequate coordination among aid groups trying to help, a senior official said on Tuesday.

Mohammad Seddi Seddiqi, head of the Juvenile Rehabilitation Center department at the Ministry of Justice, said the services provided by government ministries to centers around the country were failing their young charges.

“The juvenile rehabilitation centers are facing some challenges for example ... lack of access to adequate food, lack of access for children to health services,” Seddiqi said.

“Services provided by the ministries are not adequate. There is lack of access to gymnasiums and libraries, we don’t have social workers with experience to work with us ... there is a lack of coordination with organizations providing help.”

Seddiqi was speaking at the opening of a vocational training workshop and gym at a Kabul center, funded by the Italian government, and appealed to aid groups to coordinate work through the Ministry of Justice to avoid duplicating projects.

After 30 years of conflict, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, where children make up half the population, a quarter of children die before the age of five and the average Afghan life expectancy is 44 years.

The number of children in rehabilitation centers for various offences accounts for a tiny percentage of Afghanistan’s 15 million children. Experts say up to 40 percent of children work to help their impoverished families.

“Children have been the most vulnerable class of our society, who lost their parents and who lost the opportunity to get an education,” said Mohammad Yousef, director of Aschiana, a group that works to help educate street children.

“If they are breaking the law there are different reasons, for example psychological problems, security problems, economic problems that the parents could not take care of their children,” Yousef said at the Kabul center.

He said more training opportunities needed to be offered to children in a bid to stop them breaking the law and ending up in one of the centers.

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