Wars and weapons have become the harsh reality of the world today. During more than the last two decades, the world was always going through some war. The warlords have spread weapons everywhere. While arms and ammunitions have severe damaging effect on the human life as well as the global ecosystem, the greatest victim are the children. We are now having generations who are dauted by the black marks of wars. The world is having a huge number of physically and mentally challenged children and teenagers due to this menace. Hence, the world leaders should think neutrally about the future of this world.
Many children lose their parents, siblings, friends and extended family members in war. Children are dependent on the care, empathy and attention of adults who love them. Their attachments are frequently disrupted in times of war, due to the loss of parents, extreme preoccupation of parents in protecting and finding subsistence for the family and emotional unavailability of depressed or distracted parents
Since children and adolescents are still in development, both physical and psychological, their health is seriously endangered in war. Some of them are killed or tortured brutally, while others suffer from serious injuries, sometimes leaving them disabled. It is not rare that children are recruited in military as the child soldiers, where they are at greater risk. Insufficient diet, poor living condition, inadequate sanitation, lack of health care leads to malnutrition, diseases and weakens the immune system.
We know that war impacts children’s access to education, but it also hampers their learning from the earliest stages of life. Research shows that, when a pregnant woman is subject to violence, it can have an impact upon the unborn child’s physical and cognitive development. There is evidence that this affects the individual’s educational progress more significantly even than being exposed to violence directly in later years.
For the youngest children, exposure to violent conflict can produce long-term ill-effects. Healthy emotional development relies upon us knowing that we can trust our parents and caregivers to protect us from harm and meet our basic needs, which is the basis for secure attachment and growing independence. But war instils in countless young children the fear that nobody can in fact protect them. This can lead to extremes of anxious avoidance or of risk-taking behaviour, as well as to depression, sleeplessness and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Save the Children has conducted research on the impact of conflict on children’s mental health in Syria. In the study, 84% of adults and almost all children interviewed identified bombing and shelling as the number one cause of psychological stress in children’s daily lives. 89% of adults said children’s behaviour had become more fearful and nervous, and 71% said children increasingly suffered from frequent bed-wetting and involuntary urination – both common symptoms of toxic stress among children. The study also found children were displaying symptoms associated with toxic stress – a type of stress response that occurs when children experience strong, frequent or prolonged adversity. A continuous state of toxic stress can have a lifelong impact on children’s mental and physical health.
There are around 85 million forcibly displaced people around the world among which around 27 million are refugees. Half of these forcibly displaced people are below 18. For example; there are thousands of children among the forcibly displaced Rohingya refugees of Myanmar. Millions are from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Venezuela, Palestine, Central Republic of Africa, Ukraine and few other countries. Children, who are forcibly displaced due to atrocities and war, face very tough upbringing and can never lead normal life as others.
Till now, we have talked about wars. But weapons are also imposing same trauma to many children who are not in war zones. Recent, mass killing of school children and their teachers at Texas, USA is such an example. The elementary school massacre in Texas underscored that the world’s most powerful nation cannot even ensure that its most vulnerable, young children, are safe from violent death at their school desks. A more stunning failure of the American government would be hard to find. American parents are now afraid to drop off their children at school. It will further scar a generation of students haunted by the perpetual fear of a school shooting.
The event of Texas is not an isolated one. Many such dreadful events took place during the last few decades in countries, which are part of the modern world. If we go into the detail of the killers or shooters, we will find out traumatized childhood somehow. Firearms became the leading cause of death for children aged 1 to 18 in the United States in 2020, killing 4,368 children.
The USA, Russia and many Europeans countries are the major makers of arms and ammunitions. Unfortunately, their children are becoming victims of the weapons which they are producing. For long, these warlords have devastated the future of children in Middle East, Africa, Asia. But now, they are feeling the heat in their own backyard as the Russia-Ukraine war is being fought at the edge of Europe and may be in a decade, the war will be fought directly in the USA. Hence, weapons control is necessary for the whole world.
Moreover, where there is no war or sudden violence, children also face discrimination and abuse due to their religion, race, cast or even their families’ ideology. Like; Muslims in India and Israel, Jews in Arab countries, liberals in Russia and many types else. Additionally violence and abuse on children like; sexual abuse, rape, drug abuse, physical torture etc. is largely responsible to snatch away the rights of a caring environment for children’s upbringing. So, in different forms, children and teenagers are being victims.
A child with troublesome upbringing can create havoc for the society. As they face brutality and do not receive affection, they usually do not grow up with any soft corner for the society. Hence, many of them can turn into lunatics. Many may become terrorists or anti-social human being. Few talented ones might even reach the very top and become leaders like; Hitler or Mussolini and can daunt humanity by adopting ‘rule of the jungle’.
We have already created a generation of traumatized children during the last two or three decades and they will be fully grown up in next few years or are already grown up. The next few decades will be very critical as these once traumatized children can create havoc in the world. Most importantly, if we do not stop serving a traumatized childhood to the children and teenagers right now, the consequence may reach up to the destruction of the whole world.
Children are global assets and they should even have a visa-free world. If we cannot ensure a safe and secured childhood for them, then the world will suffer one day. Hence, the world leaders must come forward at least to control weapons to allow a peaceful future to the children of this planet. Countries in conflict must respect International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law and must protect children and their families from the horror of the ongoing violence, avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and take immediate, practical measures to reduce their impact on homes, schools, hospitals, and vital civilian infrastructure.
Today few countries might feel safe and powerful but the weapons will create noise in their homes too if not controlled now. Unfortunately, that will keep destroying generations after generations and the weapons makers, sellers and users will not be able to avoid the responsibility.
We, as the citizens of this world, want peace to prevail at every corner of this planet. Children have the right to grow in a supportive environment. Fear and violence will only snatch away that right. We hope the leadership of the world will come forward uncompromised for this cause.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron, Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela