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Children at war

“War undermines the very foundations of children's lives, destroying their homes, splintering their communities and breaking down their trust in adults." We can treat bullet and shrapnel wounds, provide prosthesis for mine victims, house the displaced and refugees of ongoing conflicts, but how do we fare in providing those most vulnerable and least able to cope with the nutritional, environmental, emotional and psychological effects of conflict?

Who, how, why and what started the conflict is irrelevant to the children once the killing has started.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 2 million children have been killed by conflict over the last decade; 6 million children have been made homeless; 12 million have been injured or disabled; and there are at least 300,000 child soldiers operating in 30 different conflicts across the globe.

According to a report by Save the Children: Conflicts killed at least 550,000 infants since 2013 and around 420 million children are now living in a conflict zone which is nearly a fifth of children globally.

At least 550,000 deaths of children under the age of one could be attributed to the effects of conflict in the 10 worst-affected conflict zones between 2013 and 2017, the most recent year for which data was available, the charity found. Afghanistan, Yemen, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria and Somalia are the countries where children were hardest hit by conflict in 2017.

The death toll does not include children killed directly by fighting. Instead, it estimates the number of infants and young children who may have died from the knock-on effects of nearby conflict, such as starvation, outbreaks of disease, damage to hospitals, or delays to aid deliveries. Child deaths rose to 870,000 when all children under the age of five were included. The estimates are likely conservative.

Is this it? No!

Thousands of children are serving as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. These boys and girls, some as young as 8 years old, serve in government forces and armed opposition groups. They may fight on the front lines, participate in suicide missions, and act as spies, messengers, or lookouts. Girls may be forced into sexual slavery. Many are abducted or recruited by force, while others join out of desperation, believing that armed groups offer their best chance for survival.

Child soldiers is a bigger topic and I will cover it in my next post with detailed explanation, causes and accurate numbers.

Effects of war on children.

Impacts in childhood may adversely affect the life trajectory of children far more than adults. Children lose the opportunity for education during war, they are forced to move into refugee camps, where they wait for years in miserable circumstances for normal life to resume, if it ever does. Long after the war has ended, these lives will never attain the potential they had before the impact of war.

Listing the impacts of war on children is a sadly straightforward task. Death, injury, disability, illness, rape and prostitution, psychological suffering, moral, social and cultural losses are just a few to name.

The international community must stand side by side with children in the toughest places it is to be a child.


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