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Afghanistan's Children of War

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The United Nations issued a report on Wednesday stating that the number of civilians killed or wounded in Afghanistan rose by 23 percent in the first six months of 2013, with women and children faring the worst -- killed by roadside bombs almost every day. An earlier UN report noted that "Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child". Over a third of Afghans are living in abject poverty, violence is escalating as NATO forces withdraw, and years of international aid has done little to decrease the abuse of women and children. These children, growing up in a country torn by warfare for decades, do their best to live normal lives -- learning to cope with the dangers, finding time to play when they can, and learning lessons from the adults all around them. The photos below are part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan. [44 photos]

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An Afghan refugee girl, in a mud house built with help from the Norwegian refugee council in Ghorian district of Herat province, Afghanistan, after returning to her home country on May 27, 2008. Many Afghan refugees struggle to rebuild their lives in their shattered homeland after spending years, sometimes decades, in Pakistan and Iran where they fled over the last 30 years of almost continual war. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood)
An Afghan refugee girl, in a mud house built with help from the Norwegian refugee council in Ghorian district of Herat province, Afghanistan, after returning to her home country on May 27, 2008. Many Afghan refugees struggle to rebuild their lives in their shattered homeland after spending years, sometimes decades, in Pakistan and Iran where they fled over the last 30 years of almost continual war. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood)
An Italian soldier of NATO's International Security Assistance Force stands guard as an Afghan boy aims a toy pistol inside Herat's prison, on September 14, 2010. (Reuters/Raheb Homavandi) #
Afghan children run to school on September 24, 2012, in a village on the road to Naghlu, near the French army base. (Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images) #
The son of a female Afghan prisoner stands in a corridor in Herat prison, on August 16, 2009. (Reuters/Raheb Homavandi) #
An Afghan skateboarding instructor with Skateistan, shows his skills to Afghan boys in Kabul, on August 8, 2008. The Skateistan program taught students in skateboarding basics, instruction techniques and skate park management over a 12 month period. The project team, which includes Australian and Afghan personnel has procured in-kind support from skateboarding experts, technical advisors, engineers, designers, IT experts and journalists in Australia, Germany and Japan. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool) #
A boy holds his donkey outside a timber market in Kabul, on November 2, 2012. (Reuters/Adnan Abidi) #
A wounded Afghan child receives treatment at a hospital after a roadside bomb in the Obe district of Herat province on July 9, 2013. The Taliban bomb killed 12 women, four children and one man traveling in a three-wheel minivan, officials said, adding that at least seven other passengers were wounded. (Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan orphans line up at an orphanage in Kandahar, on November 19, 2012. Two decades of war in Afghanistan has left some one million orphans and abandoned children across the country. (Mamoon Durrani/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan boy cries as others orphans tease him during a class at the Balkh Orphanage in the outskirts of Mazar i Sharif, on October 7, 2012. 58 children, mostly boys, live here where they are fed, schooled and educated by caretakers under the direction and support of the Afghan government. (Qais Usyan/AFP/Getty Images) #
An boy climbs a rock fence on November 11, 2012 in Kabul. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #
An Afghan boy wearing a t-shirt depicting U.S. President Barack Obama peeks from the doorway of his home in an old neighborhood of Kabul, on July 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid) #
Two girls gather as a soldier from Camp Nathan Smith visits their village of Mirwaise Mina, some 5 km (3 mi) southwest of Kandahar City center, on May 9, 2010. (Reuters/Nikola Solic) #
A young boy runs from a goat that is chasing him, as it climbs over his family's tent in Afghanistan's Paktiya Province, on July 14, 2012. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
A wounded Afghan boy with blood on his face, at the site of a car bomb attack in Kabul, on January 16, 2013. A car bomb exploded in front of the gates of the Afghan intelligence agency, witnesses said, near heavily barricaded government buildings and Western embassies. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
An Afghan girl practices the martial arts with a sword at a Wosho training club in Injil, Herat province, on April 6, 2011. (AP Photo) #
Afghan children, near the town of Kunjak in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, on October 24, 2010. (Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly) #
Children run away after an explosion in Kabul, on May 24, 2013. Several large explosions rocked a busy area in the center of the Afghan capital, Kabul, with witnesses describing shooting in the area. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
Afghan boys study at a makeshift school in the village of Budyali, Nengarhar Province, on March 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
Afghan drug addict Abdul Rahman, 44, exhales after smoking opium as his children watch him at his home in Laghman province, on May 21, 2013. (Waseem Nikzad/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan child sits at the wheel of a destroyed Soviet-era bus in Kabul, on May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi) #
12-year-old Tarana Akbari cries out near dead and injured people after a suicide bomber killed more than 70 civilians during a religious ceremony at the Abul Fazel shrine in the center of Kabul, where Shia Muslims were marking the Day of Ashura, on December 6, 2011. Agence France-Presse photographer Massoud Hossaini won the agency's first Pulitzer Prize for the picture on April 16, 2012 in the breaking news photography category "for his heartbreaking image of a girl crying in fear after a suicide bomber's attack at a crowded shrine in Kabul." (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan boy from the Pashtun tribe watches as a joint patrol between soldiers from the 1st Platoon, 1-64 Armored Battalion of the US Army, operating under NATO command, walks through the Morghan-Khecha village in Kandahar province, on September 8, 2012. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images) #
A girl looks at U.S. soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 32nd Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division as they walk by on a patrol near Camp Florida in eastern Afghanistan, on September 7, 2006. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das) #
Mahfouz Bahbah, 12, stands on a roadside hoping to sell his balloons during sunset in Kabul, on October 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen) #
A boy on a donkey reacts as Canadian soldiers with the 1st RCR Battle Group, The Royal Canadian Regiment, patrol in Salavat, southwest of Kandahar, on September 11, 2010. Minutes later the soldiers were attacked by grenades while leaving the village. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
8-year-old Razia plays ball at the U.S. military hospital in Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, on June 11, 2009. Razia was evacuated to the hospital in May after she was severely burned when a white phosphorus round hit her home in the Tagab Valley, killing two of her sisters during fighting between French troops and Taliban militants. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool) #
Boys read the Koran in a madrasa during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Kabul, on July 15, 2013. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
Zardana, 11, talks in Kandahar, Afghanistan on April 22, 2013 about a pre-dawn incident on March 11, 2012, when she says a U.S. soldier burst into her family's home. Zardana said her visiting cousin saw the soldier chasing them and ran to help, but he was shot and killed. "We couldn't stop. We just wanted somewhere to hide. I was holding on to my grandmother and we ran to our neighbors." Family members explained that Zardana was also shot in the head. She spent about two months recovering at the Kandahar Air Base hospital and three more at a naval hospital in San Diego receiving rehabilitation therapy, accompanied by her father, Samiullah. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales of Lake Tapps, Washington, plead guilty to seventeen counts of murder and six counts of assault and attempted murder in the massacre. His guilty plea earned him a life sentence, avoiding the death penalty. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
A boy works at a brick-making factory outside Kabul, on July 15, 2010. Laborers, most of whom work barefoot and without gloves, earn from $3 to $8 a day depending on their working hours and the number of bricks they make. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood) #
A young boy sleeps on a woman's shoulder in the Old City on November 7, 2012 in Kabul. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #
An Afghan boy watches as his father is searched by a policeman at a checkpoint at Delaram district in Nimroz province, on January 21, 2010. (Reuters/Marko Djurica) #
Two young girls play house, mimicking their mothers in burqas cut to their size, on the outskirts of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, on March 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul) #
Two Afghan children watch US military soldiers from the 3rd platoon, C-company, 1-23 infantry on patrol in Genrandai village at Panjwai district, on September 24, 2012. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images) #
The body of an Afghan child, during his funeral procession outside the city of Khost, Afghanistan, on November 24, 2009. A remote-controlled bomb hidden in a water tank exploded outside Khost, killing six people, including four children, and wounding one, authorities and relatives said. All the victims were members of the same family who had been going shopping ahead of the Muslim holiday Eid. (AP Photo/Nishanuddin Khan) #
A boy climbs down a tree at a cemetery in Kabul, on June 5, 2011. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood) #
A young amputee practices walking with her prosthetic legs at an International Committee of the Red Cross hospital for war victims and the disabled in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, on May 1, 2013. (Farshad Usyan/AFP/Getty Images) #
Fazel Rahman, one of four child bombers who were arrested before staging a suicide attack, reacts in a classroom at the Kabul Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in Kabul, on May 14, 2011. The orders from their religious teacher were clear-cut: Go to Afghanistan, strap on a suicide vest and kill foreign forces. With that, 14-year-old Ghulam Farooq left his home in Pakistan with three other would-be boy bombers and headed into eastern Afghanistan. They were told there would be two members of the Taliban waiting for them at the Torkham border crossing in Nangarhar province. Instead, members of the Afghan intelligence service, who had been tipped to the boys' plans, arrested them at the border. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili) #
U.S. Marines from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, Lance Corporal Chris Sanderson, (rear) and Sergeant Travis Dawson, (front) protect an Afghan man and his child after Taliban fighters opened fire in the town of Marjah, in Helmand province, on February 13, 2010. U.S.-led NATO troops launched an offensive against the Taliban's last big stronghold in Afghanistan's most violent province and were quickly thrown into a firefight with the militants. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic) #
An Afghan boy holds his face as he throws himself backwards into a stream in Kabul, on August 10, 2011. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood) #
A girl carries a child over her back on the outskirts of Herat, on April 9, 2013. (Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan children play in a street in Herat, on January 14, 2013. (Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images) #
A five year old Afghan girl, allegedly raped by a 22 year old man, lies in a hospital bed in Kaldar district of Balk Province of Mazar-i-Sharif, on November 12, 2012. The alleged rapist and neighbor was later detained by police. There is little sign that violence against women in Afghanistan is decreasing, despite billions of dollars of international aid which has poured into the country during the decade-long war. Some 87 percent of Afghan women report having experienced physical, sexual or psychological violence or forced marriage, according to figures quoted in an October report by the British charity Oxfam. (Qais Usyan/AFP/Getty Images) #
An boy jumps from a vehicle in Kabul, on July, 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid) #
An Afghan girl touches her mother's artificial leg the ICRC Ali Abad Orthopedic center in Kabul, on November 12, 2009. The center, which is run mostly by disabled people, aims to educate and rehabilitate landmine victims and people with any kind of deformities, to help them integrate effectively into society. (Reuters/Jerry Lampen) #

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