Source: The Nation
Around the world, a stunning one in five children are growing up in a war zone today. Neither their governments, nor humanitarian-aid groups, nor their families can guarantee the basic elements of survival, much less anything like a happy childhood. That’s according to a bleak accounting by human-rights researchers that reveals that in many regions, it’s not soldiers who suffer the most on the front lines, but the estimated 420 million children who live in conflict-affected areas—about a fifth of all youth. The total count, drawn from an international database, represents an increase of 30 million between 2016 and 2017. The humanitarian group Save the Children (STC) estimates that conflict now impacts children at the highest rate in a generation.
Today’s war-zone children grapple with everyday violence that would be unthinkable in more peaceful and privileged societies. STC found that based on a United Nations index of “grave violations against children,” the number of incidents of “being killed, maimed, recruited by armed groups or abducted, sexual violence, attacks on schools and denial of humanitarian aid” jumped from roughly 10,000 in 2010 to 25,000 in 2017. Often, children are “specifically targeted”— perhaps to maximize the political spectacle of carnage, or to test the rules of combat by deliberately placing children in the cross fire—or deliberately starved under siege.
About 30 percent of kids in Africa and 40 percent in the Middle East are living in conflict zones today, while Asia has the highest number of children in conflict zones, 195 million. Beyond the front lines, countless children have been displaced, often living as refugees abroad indefinitely. The rise in the number of children in conflict zones is driven partially by an expansion in populations affected by conflict, but also by increasing violence by non-state actors as war shifts from traditional international fighting to informal clashes. Overall, since 1990, according to Bernice Romero, senior director of public policy and advocacy at STC, “conflict is happening in more populated areas, including the urbanization of war, the rise of non-state actors, the increasing number of conflicts, and conflicts becoming longer and more drawn out.”