Children are left broken and destitute as a result of war. According to Letty Thomas of WarChild.org, “[C]ivilians were once far removed from the fighting; they’re now routinely targeted and make up 90% of the casualties.” Thousands of children die as a direct result of violence in war each year. Thomas goes on to say that “Hospitals and health [centers] are destroyed. Doctors and nurses are killed or have fled. Children are most vulnerable to diseases like [diarrhea], malaria and cholera. Treatment is simple and cheap, but millions of children have died through lack of it.” Moreover, thousands of children are injured each year specifically by weapons. Landmines are particularly vicious. Children are more likely to get hurt by landmines than adults are. Injuries occur as a result of poor knowledge of how to use weapons, being in the line of fire, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Children are further disabled from war. According to the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health (NLM/NIH), “A child may have to wait up to 10 years before having a prosthetic limb fitted.” The NLM/NIH further states that children have poor access to proper, “nutrition, water safety, sanitation, housing, and… health services.” Because of this, illness becomes an indirect effect of war on children. Because children are often separated from their parents/guardians throughout the lifespan of a war, they are often left with guardians who do not care for them as much. These children end up having to scavenge for medical help on their own, which most can’t or won’t.
Oftentimes, people do not view mental health as a part of physical health, but it is. The mind is just as much of an organ as any other body party, and it gets affected deeply during the process of war. Children will oftentimes have high levels of anxiety and depression as a result of experiencing horror and loss of life, both of loved ones and strangers. Many end up with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. The NLM/NIH explains that “They may have to change their moral structure and lie, steal, and sell sex to survive. They may have their moral structure forcibly dismantled and replaced in training to kill as part of a military force.” Sexual assault is becoming a way to wage war now, too, leaving many young girls pregnant or unable to have children. Being taken advantage of physically can result in incredibly traumatic experiences for children both psychologically and on their physical bodies. They can be abused verbally or physically and be taken advantage of.
Children are true victims in the case of war. They are vulnerable because of their age, their size, and their naivety. Children are often lead astray and get involved in things they never wanted to, to begin with. Children need to be helped more than most other people groups. Learn about how children are negatively affected next month, because their education is stolen from them. Feel free to tweet me any thoughts, questions, or comments you may have @johnslifko!