Kabul: The UN Children's Fund (Unicef) has expressed concerns over the status of children, poor access to school and malnutrition in Afghanistan.

"We have very serious concern about the education of children in Afghanistan because there are 3.5 million children who are out of school while they are supposed to be in school," Adele Khodr, Unicef's country representative, told Xinhua news agency. She said 75 per cent of those 3.5 million children out of school were girls. "Even if the girls go to school, they leave the school earlier when they became age of 12 or 15 years," the Unicef representative said.

Khodr also expressed concern over the quality of teaching for children and their learning levels. The education situation has improved in Afghanistan since the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001. According to Afghan Presidential Palace, less than 1 million children had access to education during Taliban's reign. The number has soared to more than 9.5 million children with 40 per cent of them girls attending 15,000 schools across the country in 2016. Another challenging issue for children in Afghanistan is malnutrition, said the Unicef representative.

Khodr said there were 600,000 children who were severely malnourished in Afghanistan, describing the situation as "severe acute malnutrition". She said the rate of stunting or chronic malnutrition in Afghanistan was 41 per cent; not only does this mean that children are short for their age but more importantly it means that the mental and intellectual capacity of these children once they become adults is stunted too. She noted that Afghanistan was one of the three countries in the world still fighting polio. This year, 10 polio cases were registered in the country. Cross-country access was difficult due to security reasons. According to a report of UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released in October, the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan had caused 2,480 child casualties including 689 deaths during the first three quarters of this year.