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Picture Book for Afghanistan: "Health Is Half of Wealth"


Children holding picture books1

According to a press release from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), in 2016, the number of civilian casualties caused by fighting or terror attacks related to the conflict exceeded the record levels of 2015 by 3 percent to reach 11,418 casualties (3,498 killed, 7,920 injured). One in 10 casualties was a woman and one in three a child.*1 The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) puts Afghanistan’s net enrolment rates in primary education at 64 percent for girls and 86 percent for boys (2013),*2 but attacks by anti-governmental elements are still keeping at least 3.5 million children out of elementary school, 75 percent of whom are girls.*3

Children holding picture books2

Since 2012, the Global Collaboration Center has been supporting the production of original picture books in cooperation with the Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA), an NGO implementing school library projects in Afghanistan. The project is part of the Center’s Nonoyama Endowment for Women’s Education in Afghanistan and Other Developing Countries. In fiscal 2016, 2,400 copies—1,200 in Dari and 1,200 in Pashto—were printed of Health Is Half of Wealth, an original picture book written by the poet Habibullah Zara Swand Shinwari, who was deeply involved in SVA activities, before his passing at the age of 82. The picture books were distributed to 110 schools and libraries in the Kabul and Nangarhar provinces, benefiting 204,533 students. General teacher training was also provided on effective means of using libraries and library books, as well as librarian training on how to operate a library.

The book tells the story of young boy named Gul, who buys loquats on the way home from school with the pocket money his mother has given him, but eats them without washing them first, and ends up sick. He tries to cure himself by taking a folk remedy with unproven effects, but doesn’t get any better at all, and ends up being taken unconscious to hospital. The doctor diagnoses him as having caught an infectious disease, and his stomach is cleaned out and proper medicine prescribed, after which he finally recovers. As a result of the experience, both Gul and his parents come to realize the importance of education and health. Afghanistan does have picture books, but not everyone has access to them, so the book was significant in terms of improving children’s access to picture books and boosting their interest in reading, as well as teaching them about the importance of education and health.

  • photo3A children’s library
  • photo4Children reading the finished book

*1 UNAMA, Press Release, 6 February 2017
*2 UNESCO, Afghanistan National Education for All (EFA) Review 2015 Report, P.11
*3 Reuters, Worsening security forces more Afghan schools to shut, 30 November 2016

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