Conflicts around the world have significantly diminished through the 1990s, but started to increase again in the past few years. Religious fanatics, ideological zealots, and military strongmen continue to wreak havoc and rain down misery on swathes of populations.
The one constant of conflict appears to be that the most vulnerable, particularly women and children, suffer disproportionately as a result. According to UNICEF, 2014 was a devastating year for children, with an estimated 15 million children caught up in major conflicts around the world. According to Save the Children, half the victims of sexual violence during conflict are children.
The human race collectively bears the responsibility for this state of affairs.
When you tuck your children into bed tonight, spare a thought for the millions of children and parents around the world who don’t even know whether they will live to see another day … and do something.
Educate yourself about the state of the world, the sources of conflict and the positions taken by your government. Write a letter to your local politician or newspaper. Help a non-governmental organisation with your time or money. And give your kids an even bigger hug and kiss when you are tucking them into bed again the next night, appreciating how lucky you are to live in a place where you can take peace and security for granted.
Africa has become a particularly dangerous place for children, and everyone else, in recent times. From the lost boys of Sudan, to the ‘boy soldiers’ of Africa and the girls kidnapped, and children harmed, by Boko Haram, Africa, the birthplace of humanity, has become a dark and unforgiving place:
- Boko Haram stoned captive girls to death as rescuers approached (CBC News, 3 May 2015)
- Former child soldier escaped Lord’s Resistance Army to quarry rock for less than $US1 a day (ABC News, 15 April 2015)
- Many South Sudan boys ‘kidnapped to be child soldiers’ (BBC News, 1 March 2015)
- Nigeria’s Boko Haram isn’t just kidnapping girls: it’s enslaving them (The Telegraph, 13 January 2015)
- Child soldiers in Central African Republic more than doubled (The Guardian, 18 December 2014)
- Child soldiers still being recruited in South Sudan (BBC News, 27 October 2014)
- Hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian school girls reportedly sold as brides to militants for $12, relatives say (The Washington Post, 30 April 2014)
- Schoolgirls kidnapped by suspected Islamists in Nigeria (The Guardian, 16 April 2014)
In Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, insurgent criminals are also causing untold harm to entire populations, including children. Like in Africa, children and schools have become a soft target for deadly and cowardly violence:
- Syrian children under siege (UNICEF)
- Syrian children killed in government barrel-bomb attack, say rights groups (The Guardian, 4 May 2015)
- ‘Raising tomorrow’s mujahideen’: the horrific world of Isis’s child soldiers (The Guardian, 11 March 2015)
- UN: ISIS beheading children, burying them alive (CBS DC, 5 February 2015)
- Pakistan Taliban: Peshawar school attack leaves 141 dead (BBC News, 16 December 2014)
- Pakistan militants kill 141 in school massacre (Sky News, 16 December 2014)
- First UN report on children in Syria’s civil war paints picture of ‘unspeakable’ horrors (UN News Centre, 4 February 2014)
Until we can find a practical way to reduce global violence and end the suffering of children, all we can do is provide assistance to those caught up in the horrors of war.
There are many worthy organisations worldwide that devote themselves to providing assistance to children. In the context of conflict, UNICEF and War Child stand out, having done tremendous good work.