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Children safer in Kabul than in London or New York, NATO envoy says

By the CNN Wire Staff
Afghani girls attend school on the outskirts of Kabul.
Afghani girls attend school on the outskirts of Kabul.
  • NEW: Remark took away from point he was trying to make, Sedwill says
  • Despite Afghan children's fears, there are few bombs in Kabul, the envoy says
  • He makes his comments on a BBC current-affairs program for children
  • "Most children can go about their lives in safety" in Kabul, he says
  • NATO
  • Kabul

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Children in war-ravaged Afghanistan are safer than those growing up in London or New York, NATO's top civilian envoy says.

Mark Sedwill, the senior civilian representative for NATO, made the comments on an episode of CBBC's "Newsround," which is airing Monday.

In the show -- a BBC current-affairs program for children -- several youngsters in Kabul, Afghanistan, say they are afraid of daily violence and the frequent explosions in their war-torn country.

In response, Sedwill says: "Here in Kabul, and other big cities actually, there are very few of these bombs. The children are probably safer here than they would be in London, New York or Glasgow or many other cities.

"Most children can go about their lives in safety. It's a very family-oriented society. So it is a little bit like a city of villages," he added.

A U.N. report released earlier this year seems to contradict Sedwill's assessment.

The February report, by the special representative for children and armed conflict, says that children in Afghanistan are increasingly the victims of roadside attacks, crossfire between militants and international forces, and air strikes.

In addition, they have been used as human shields and recruited as suicide bombers.

The report also said boys are sexually abused and exploited by armed groups and girls schools have been burned down.

Earlier this year, there was a rash of poisonings involving schoolgirls, and several instances of acid attacks have been reported.

On Monday, Sedwill elaborated on what he meant in his remark.

"Any comment you have to clarify obviously wasn't very well put and the comparison I made with western cities distracted attention from the important point I was seeking to make," he said.

"I was trying to explain to an audience of British children how uneven violence is across Afghanistan. Half the insurgent violence takes place in 10 of the 365 districts, and, in those places, children are too often the victims of IEDs and other dangers. But, in cities like Kabul where security has improved, the total levels of violence, including criminal violence, are comparable to those which many western children would experience.

"For most Afghans, the biggest challenges are from poverty -- the absence of clean water, open sewers, malnutrition, disease -- and many more children are at risk from those problems than from the insurgency."