Children and War

Every day as a result of conflict, thousands of civilians are killed or injured. More than half of these victims are children. The days when the captain of a sinking ship ordered women and children first onto lifeboats are just a fading notion. The Second World War was a watershed when civilian victims were as numerous as combatants. Now, in almost all current conflicts, civilians are the majority of casualties, with children suffering disproportionately. 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.

A child is particularly vulnerable to the ravages of war. According to a United Nations study on children in war by Graca Machel, “The physical, sexual and emotional violence to which they [children] are exposed shatters their world. War undermines the very foundations of children’s lives, destroying their homes, splintering their communities and breaking down their trust in adults.” We 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?