I have watched mothers and fathers keening in grief over the frail corpses of their children in hospitals in Gaza and rural villages in El Salvador, Bosnia and Kosovo. The faces of these dead children, their bodies ripped apart by iron fragments or bullets tumbling end over end through their small, delicate frames, appear to me almost daily like faint and sadly familiar ghosts. The frailty and innocence of my own children make these images difficult to bear.
A child a day dies in war-related violence in Afghanistan. Children die in roadside explosions. They die in airstrikes. They die after militants lure them to carry suicide bombs, usually without their knowledge. They die in firefights. They are executed by the Taliban after being accused, sometimes correctly, of spying for the Afghan National Army. They are tiny pawns in a futile and endless war. They are robbed of their childhood. They live in fear and surrounded by the terror of indiscriminate violence. The United Nations, whose most recent report on children in Afghanistan covered a two-year period from Sept. 1, 2008, to Aug. 30, 2010, estimates that in the first half of last year at least 176 children were killed and 389 more wounded. But the real number is probably much, much higher. There are big parts of the country where research can no longer be carried out.