A child is any person below the age of twelve years. A child is an individual who has not developed all the physical features of an adult person. A child will always act under the direction and cannot do anything out of their discretion or cannot make decisions on their own. Those above them will always direct the child.
A conflict, on the other hand, refers to any indifference between two parties. The conflict can be between two persons, two communities, and two states, two or more organizations. Conflicts will bring wars. Children are a vulnerable group in any society because they cannot adapt quickly to the new changes in the environment. They will tend to take much time to absorb shocks after a destabilized environment. Conflicts arise in every society. It begins from homes, villages, estates and to states. We have interpersonal conflicts, intercommunity conflicts, regional conflicts as well as intrapersonal conflicts. Conflicts will always arise where two or more parties do not agree on an individual subject and are not willing to come to a consensus and resolve the matter at hand. When there is a conflict, children are adversely affected. This is because they cannot make rational decisions by themselves as they have been used to being directed by those above them. The conflict will always leave the children at an adverse state with no option of where to run unto unless when directed.
Risks faced by children
There are many risks that children face during and after conflicts. The greatest danger faced by children during conflict is the risk of being orphaned. As the parents are involved in the wars, there are always changes of death. This leaves children without parents, and this exposes them to more and more risks (Dalla 2011). When a child is orphaned a lot of the control and care the parent had is lost. This leaves the child with less care and guidance. A lot of wars in the world have left children orphaned yearning to get parental guidance but missing on it. An orphan is a vulnerable child who can do anything. Most parents and guardians are sometimes displaced during the wars, and thus this makes children lack the parental support that is desired of every child. A lot of conflicts will leave either one or both parents dead.
The parents may be part of those participating in the wars or may be attacked by the conflicting forces. Sometimes the parents are obliged to fight and join the armies, and because of their inexperience, they are killed in the war. This makes the children that they had to be orphans and thus to be dependent on others. The orphaned children will always face other risks including poverty, lack of adequate support to education, lack of some basing need as well as being used by other people. This risk is thus the greatest during and after conflicts (Carpenter 2007).
Sexual abuse and exploitation is another risk faced by children during and after conflicts. During many wars, the armies and rebels will target children to exploit them sexually. This is because the children are readily available because they can’t make informed decisions during the conflicts. The children in most cases girls are raped together with women and this exposes them to early and unwanted pregnancies, the risk of HIV/AIDS, the risk of other sexually transmitted diseases and even the risk of depression (Shaw & Neef 2013). After sexual abuse and harassment most of the children are depressed and thus cannot continue with their normal life. Some of the children who were exposed to the rape ordeals are left to deal with the scars and fiery moments they saw during the rape and sexual harassment ordeals (Dalla 2011). The children also lack the sensed of direction and some choose to continue with child prostitution. Sexual abuse and exploitation thus hinders the development of the children affected. Sexual abuse is usually propagated by the soldiers that lead the battlefield. Most of them having stayed for long and far apart from their wives take this opportunity to molest sexually the children. This is because the children are easily accessible and can be easily harassed. The children can be easily threatened and can easily take orders thus it is easier to use them. Sexual abuse is thus another risk that children will face during conflicts. Sexual abuse causes a major threat to the growth and development of children as such ordeals do not get out of the minds of children.
Conflicts and wars disrupt the learning of the children. When we have conflicts in the family or in the community or in the country, schools are affected. The teachers of the children are forced to stay away from schools and some of them are used in the wars. This means that schools are shut down and thus there is no schooling. Some of the children might be used in the conflicts and when this happens there is no schooling activity that can continue in the area. Lack of access to schools thus hinders the learning of the children and makes them vulnerable to different other risks that are associated to wars because schools would have kept them busy are no longer operational. The children are left to do their things alone and thus more and more dangers (Shawcross 2010).
Children also face the risk of being forced to join the armies. Children because of their easy accessibility are sometimes used by the troops or conflicting sides. The children are forced to take part in the war (Dalla 2011). They are forced to take guns and other fighting equipment some of which might be very heavy and mind torturing and take part in the wars. Because of their inexperience, most of the children lose their lives in the battlefields while some of them are injured to a point of living their entire life with the disabilities. This makes the children more and more vulnerable to other risks in the battlefield.
Abduction and torture is another risk that children face during wars and conflicts. The conflicting parties may choose to abduct the children to win the other parties decision. The children may be taken to unknown places and subjected to torture as a way of making the other party to calm down and listen to the grievances of the party that captured the children. This torture destabilizes the children and makes them unstable in their minds, causes depression to some and death occurs in some cases where the other party is not willing to come to a consensus. Children are usually targeted because they are easier to access and sometimes they are easier to direct and scare. Those children abducted may live with the scars for long and may never enjoy their life afterwards as they keep being tortured by the happenings of their torture (Muggah, Wenmann, Geneva Declaration, United Nations Development Programme, & Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2011).
Where there is conflict, increased poverty is one of the outcomes. This is a risk that affects the children. When there is a conflict it makes the parents and guardians not to work but to focus on the conflict and the conflict resolution strategies (Villanueva, Loots, & Derluyn 2013). A lot of the economic activities are brought to a stand still and most of the economic activities are ignored. Most parents forget about their bread winning role and concentrate in the fights. Companies and factories close down and thus the children are left to stay in poverty. As the parents fights the children on the other hand cannot take care of themselves. Most of the parents also perish in the wars and conflicts and thus the children are left unproductive and thus poverty becomes their lifestyle.
Conflict leads to other vices like children prostitution, as children lack parental guidance as well as those to provide for their needs they will tend to look for alternative ways to survive. The cheapest that comes to them is looking for food through child prostitution (Villanueva, Loots, & Derluyn 2013). Some of the people take advantage of the conflicts that surround the children and influence them to child prostitution in the name of helping them to survive. When a miserable child is approached with such an option and it seems the only option that will give them food, then they will appreciate the option and thus use it as an avenue to survive. In conflict areas child prostitution becomes rampant and a normal thing. As these happens the children are exposed to other associated risks like spreading of other diseases, early unwanted pregnancies, school dropouts increase among other challenges associated to this. Survival for the fittest is a major philosophy that works during conflict times. Those who feel they can adapt to abortion usually does that and in the end prostitution becomes a normal thing among the children. Prostitution exposes the children to dangerous diseases but the children find it the solace to their problems. Prostitution is thus one of the risks that children face during and after conflicts.
Lastly conflicts expose the children to the risk of health problems. Where there is a conflict in any area, people are forced to flee and run for their lives. In most cases they ran to open grounds and bushes where the conditions are not conducive for survival. Some of the places are too cold in the night, some conflicts arise during the rainy season sop the rains keep pouring down on the children, sometimes the people flee to deserts and desert like conditions is what is exposed to the children. This makes the children vulnerable to contacting diseases like pneumonia, malaria among other diseases.
The places where people flee to are always not good for the survival of human beings and will always have a negative impact on the health of children more so those that cannot adapt easily or have had a bad health history (Leavitt & Fox 2014). On the other hand, the places where people flee to are not well equipped with infrastructures like latrines or toilets and the general cleanliness of the areas is sometimes in a bad state. This makes it easier to spread diseases like cholera and dysentery as well as typhoid. These diseases spread at a faster rate and in most cases affect the children in the areas affected. Some of the diseases easily kill the children and because the conflict or the war makes it hard to access health facilities most of them are left to die in the camps. Other diseases that attack the children can paralyze them and leave them is a worse state because there are no doctors or some of the doctors are part of those in the war.
Activities and Actors Involved in Protecting Children
There are different organizations that have come up to help address the plight of children during and post conflict times. These organizations have come up with activities that will ensure that children are protected and cared for in such distressing moments. A lot of strides have been made by different organizations. First there are campaigns being undertaken by different organizations to air the grievances of the children. The United Nations children fund (UNICEF) have come up with a campaign “children, Not soldiers” to help fight the recruitment of children into armies. This campaign has seen different nations and non governmental group’s partner to ensure that children are spared during armed conflicts. The UNICEF has ensured that the different organizations and armies commit to protecting the children and to stop their recruitment into the armies and war troops. There are other campaigns by individual countries that are run to help exclude any exclusion of children into the wars and into the troops that are engaging in war.
Most of the countries and even army commanders are buying this idea and trying their best to ensure that the children are spared and that they are not affected much during the different operations by the troops (International Union for Child Welfare 2009). The governments have also been compelled to protect the children and have thus come up with the campaigns to advance this. Most of the conflicts that are experienced nowadays do not involve children because of the growing awareness through campaigns and the pressure the states get from such campaigns makes it hard for them to encourage the children involvement in war like activities. The campaigns have thus had a positive impact on the fight towards the involvement of children in troops. Apart from the campaigns on the involvement of children in troops, campaigns have been done to promote the rights of children during the wars. These campaigns by different organizations and even the department of children in the United Nations have made a positive impact on the fight towards child rights and protection. Most governments have been made3 to adopt the recommendations the fighters of children’s right and thus has reduced the risks that the children faced during the war like activities.
Governments on the other hand have been supportive to protect the children and ensuring that they are not exposed to the risks of war and conflicts. The governments have dedicated themselves to monitor the engagements of the armed troops as well as other conflicting organizations. The governments monitor and come up with reports of the operations undertaken by their armed troops. The governments also make sure that they fight the illegal troops that want to exploit the children in their operations. This has been noted in Nigeria where the government engages and fights the Boko Haram group that has been abducting and molesting children in Nigeria. This troop has held girls for some time but the government has continued to fight it and ensure that the girls are set free.
Most governments have also set up the age limit for those joining the armies and thus only adults are allowed to join the armies. The governments have also come up with ministries that specifically deal with children matters (Westra 2014). These departments make sure that children are not affected when we have conflicts in any part of the state but rather the children are safe, and are provided for all their requirements during the conflict periods. Some of the legislations laid down by the government have a high penalty for those found molesting and harassing or abusing children. The penalty is harsh and this scares away those who had the intentions of molesting and harassing children. The perpetrators of child abuse have also been held accountable in most cases. Governments have thus played a role in reducing the risks facing children during conflicts.
Some organizations like UNICEF and UNESCO have come up with specialized training for troops. Specialized training has been done to troops within the United Nations peace building armies and without. These trainings equip the soldiers with the skills to care and protect the children during the peace building missions (Ressler, Boothby, & Steinbock 2010). This has really helped as the soldiers who are involved in peace keeping and enhancement missions know how to protect and care for the children they interact with. The soldiers are taught to be friendly and use wisdom to interact with the children so that they won’t harm the children during their missions. The children are always to be protected regardless of the threat with in the area. This training on child protection has also been extended to non-United Nations army troops to other troops to ensure that most armies understand that children are vulnerable and that they should be protected no matter what. Many trainings have been done by different agencies and follow up on the same issues is done to make sure that the armies are well trained to handle the kids during wars. A lot of emphasis has been put on governments also to ensure that they train their soldiers on this and watch dogs are always keen to ensure that no soldier molests children and if they do they are held responsible. This has reduced the cases of child abuse during wars and has also made it easier for children to be evacuated to safe places during wars. This is a good move to ensure that the children are not exposed to the risks of conflicts.
Legal reforms have been undertaken in most countries. Cases touching children molestation, harassment, and abuse are handled with the speed required in most countries. The court systems have been improved and the cases involving children are handled well to ensure that those involved in crimes against the children are brought to book. In most countries the crime against children has tougher penalties and those who are found guilty face it rough. Different legislative organs (Rosen 2012) keenly follow the children rights have been enshrined in most constitutions and the rights of children. These reforms have made a great impact on the push of child protection and care during conflicts. International laws and international courts have also put a pressure on the governments to implement proper legislations. Those in government and have breached the rights of children or have led to assault of children have been followed up by international courts for example the international criminal court in Netherlands. All the legal reforms are geared to making the life of a child better and to offer them conducive environment for their growth and development. Schools have been gazette as protected space in most countries. Wars and conflicts are not allowed in schools. Schools are not supposed to be attacked and thus they are a better place to take refuge during conflicts. Those who attack schools and other places that inhabit children face tougher penalties and thus most of them avoid such places. This ensures that the children are not exposed to the risks of conflicts.
Lastly a lot of information about child rights has been passed across to children. Most people have understood the rights of the children and have gone to an extent of advocating for such rights (Jo 2015). People would not want to see children molested or harassed and thus go along way to see that these children are protected. Most of the children nowadays understand their rights and are in the front line in fighting for their rights. The children are informed and trained on what to do during conflicts, where to call for support and who not to trust. The children thus stay calm and make sure that they only leave the area when the right rescue teams come. This has helped the children to get well during conflicts and not to respond in any way that would lead to their harm. This has reduced the risks that the children face during conflicts.
Counseling and guidance of the children affected is the first and fore most thing that should be done after a conflict. Children are very vulnerable and a small shift in their lifestyle or environment destabilizes their mind and causes them stress. It is thus prudent to counsel all the affected children (Slone & Friedman 2008). Counseling will bring the children to a level of understanding and they will be in a position to understand what was happening in their lives. The will get to understand that it was not their fault that the conflict arose and neither was it their parents faults. The children will also be in a position to pick up the pieces and move on with life knowing what had happened and what awaits them. Children counselors are tasked to handle children as they are the best to handle the children that any other group that may cause more harm than help. Trained children counselors will take the children through the process and ensure that they get up from the stress. Counseling also involves making sure that the children learn from the experience and be able to cope up with life. Those who have lost parents are embraced and encouraged that that is not the end of the journey and they should brave up for the life ahead. Counseling thus gives the children a new strength and power to move on with life. Counseling ensures that the children fully adapt to the new conditions they have been subjected to and thus are in a position to continue with their lives without struggling so much.
Another important activity after conflicts is resettling the children. Different children are displaced during the conflicts. They are separated from their parents and they lose attachment to their parents and guardians (Lauderdale & Green 2011). After the conflict a big challenge usually is resettling these children. Those whose parents are accessible are matched with their parents for continuation of life. Those that lost their parents during the wars are forced to stay with the guardians that will be attached to them. Sometimes the children displaced are so many, sometimes most of them are pushed to the children homes and orphanages, and thus they are forced to adapt to life without parents. The children are forced to continue with life with the close guidance of relatives but adapt to the life of being taken care of by care givers. The orphanages are not well equipped and thus cannot offer the very best conditions for survival as those that would have been given if the children were in their parent’s homes. The challenges are more but with the help of well-wishers and support from the government the children always have a reason to smile again.
After the conflicts, the government also embarks on rebuilding schools and returning the learning environment to the schools that were affected. This is one of the important things that should be done after conflicts. Schools and children are inseparable. The longer the schools are closed, the longer the period it will take to resettle the children (Slone & Friedman 2008). Schools have been known to offer a consoling environment to the children when in need. The children through interaction with others in schools forget of their stresses and make it easier for them to cope with life. When schools have reopened the counseling from the teachers, and other trained counselors will give the children the right environment to adapt quickly. Schools are thus an easier way of making children adapt to their surroundings. Learning conditions if well put will increase or quicken the recovery of children. As the kids deep their heads into books, they forget the predicaments that befall them and as they concentrate in classes they get a quick recovery. The more the schools are in the session, the lesser the children think of what happened to them and concentrate on what is best for them in class. This makes healing easier and easier. After conflicts, the children should be provided with the necessities. This is food and clothing as well as shelter.
When a child has the basic needs, they will always feel appreciated and will; feel fulfilled. Filled child will not be stressed of what happened to them but will enjoy what they have. A child who has food, shelter, and clothing will not be a bother to those around him or her. When a child is hungry, the thoughts of his parents comes to them and thus when he or she gets the necessary food they will relaxant do their things. Children should always be taken care of to ensure that the stress arising from the conflict doesn’t hinder their progress (Lauderdale & Green 2011). Children should also be given a better place to sleep and also the necessary clothing to enhance their adapting to the new challenges. Those that are sick and weakly should be given the appropriate medication to ensure that they recover from the diseases. The children who are sick should be taken to better medication to avoid the spread of diseases to other children and also to ensure that they are not traumatized or depressed by the sickness. Proper medication and good health will reduce the stress that the children are facing. This will increase their pace to adapting to the new environment.
Lastly, after conflicts, the remaining parents should be counseled on how to handle the children that were affected. This is because any slight stress inflicted by the parents to the children will make them traumatized and will feel more rejected. Having gone through the conflict ordeal, most children will understand anything harsh as rejection and will always act in rejection (Slone & Friedman 2008). The parents who tend to work in any harsh way will scare the children away, and thus the children loose the love and think that their parents are no longer caring just as those who were fighting in the conflict. Children who went through the battle ordeal should be handled carefully and with a lot of softness to enhance their growth and adaptability. This will make them cope easily with the new environment.
There is a lot that happens during and after a conflict. Children should be handled well during a conflict as well as after the conflict. It should be understood that children are vulnerable and that if they are handled in a wrong way, they will always have a repulsive mood. The children should be handled well to ensure that they cope well after the conflict. They should be provided with the necessary basic needs, supported emotionally and everything done to ensure that they adapt to the conditions they have been subjected to after conflicts.