11 September 2007
War is child abuse. Millions of children are being killed, wounded, conscripted, orphaned, jailed and sexually abused in 30 conflict zones. Peter Tatchell interviews Mark Waddington of the charity War Child, which is reaching out to the child victims of war and transforming their lives.
According to the United Nations, in the last 10 years, two million children have been killed in the Congo, Darfur, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan and other war zones. That’s one child killed every three minutes.
In the Congo alone, four million people have died since the late 1990s – the biggest mass killing since WW2. Iraq has seen over 650,000 deaths, coinciding with the invasion and occupation since 2003. Many of the dead are children.
Among the children most vulnerable to violence are young girls, and young people who are gay, HIV-positive, members of ethnic minorities and dissenting faiths, and those whose parents support political parties that are involved in conflicts.
In addition to the children killed, the UN estimates that six million children have been permanently disabled as a result of conflicts over the last decade.
In the same time-frame, at least 250,000 children have been conscripted into armies and militias in the Congo, Uganda, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. While boys become soldiers, girls are often exploited and abused as cooks, porters and sex slaves.
In total, millions of children have been orphaned; hundreds of thousands have ended up living rough on the streets (there are an estimated 250 million street children worldwide); and tens of thousands of teenagers have suffered imprisonment or been forced into the sex industry.
The indirect effects of war can be as devastating as violence itself. Vast numbers of children are suffering malnutrition, due to the destruction of crops, livestock and food distribution networks.
Many child refugees have died as a result of diseases caused by a lack of access to clean water and from the sometimes deliberate contamination of water supplies by opposing armies.
There is also widespread child homelessness, following the bombing or burning of villages; and illiteracy as a consequence of the disruption of education following the destruction of schools and the murder of teachers.
War Child is an award winning charity that works with local partner organisations to protect marginalised children – street children, child soldiers and children in prison – in places that are acutely affected by conflict such as Iraq, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. For more information see: War Child
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