An international advocacy group says more than 400,000 children in Afghanistan will likely drop out of school during the current school year because of growing instability and an influx of forced refugee returns from neighboring Pakistan.
U.S.-based Save the Children on March 23 said one-third of all Afghan children – some 3.7 million – are unable to go to school -- making them susceptible to recruitment by armed groups, trafficking, child labor, early marriage, and other forms of exploitation.
It said the crisis is made worse by the forced return from Pakistan of more than 610,000 Afghan refugees during 2016 and up to 1 million this year, which threatens to overwhelm educational facilities.
The report, issued on the traditional first day of school in Afghanistan, estimates that 1,100 children a day will drop out of school this year.
"Today should be a happy day in Afghanistan as children go back to class for the first time after a long winter," said Ana Locsin, Save the Children's country director in Afghanistan.
"Instead, it is a day cloaked in tragedy for the millions who can’t access education and are struggling to survive," Locsin said.