Rights of children during war: Dilemma of global humanity

Published : Tuesday, 18 August, 2020 at 12:00 AM
Proper physical and psychological growth of children is always desired for a better future of not only a particular country but also for the whole world. But if we need to name one curse, that will be acts of war, genocide or ethnic cleansing, which is destroying that scope for millions of children all around the world. It is not the case in today’s era only. It is rather a truth from the very inception of the human race.

Children have been the greatest victim of any such atrocious acts. We should not desire or tolerate such treatment of the children while any of two parties is in conflict for their own interests and destroying the scope of welfare of this world. Hence, to protect our future, we need to safeguard the children from these man-made calamities.


Wars have always victimized children and other non-combatants, but modern wars are exploiting, damaging and killing children more cold-heartedly and more methodically than ever. Children today find themselves caught up in multifaceted and puzzling conflicts that have numerous causes and that lack clear prospects for resolution.

The end of the Cold War promised a cessation of the conflicts fuelled by the superpowers’ ideological differences. Instead, wars have raged in practically every part of the globe, either between or, more typically, within nation States. Though easily dismissed in the media as tribal wars or ethnic hostilities, their impact on children has been devastating. Millions of children have been killed through direct attack, malnutrition, disease, sexual violence and the depredations of forced flight.


Massive and coarse violations against children continue unabated. Death, rape, mutilation, forced recruitment, displacement, injury and malnourishment are a few of the grave consequences. War crimes against children must be ended. National sovereignty must not shield those directly and indirectly responsible for committing such heinous crimes.
When the lives and fundamental rights of children are at stake, there must be no silent witnesses. Protecting human rights is a fundamental, yet overwhelmingly neglected aspect of peacemaking, peace building and humanitarian operations. In conflict situations, increased resources and attention must be given to monitor, verify and report child rights and gender-based violations. States must ratify without reservation, implement and incorporate in their national legislation the optional protocol to the convention on the rights of the child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

In war time, children witness and experience terrible carnage. Displaced children uprooted from their homes and in refugee camps face the greatest health risks and suffer the highest death rates. War undermines the very foundations of children’s lives destroying their homes, splintering their communities and breaking down their trust in adults. Psychosocial support is essential to children’s revival, growth and progress. Psychosocial support consists of planned activities must be designed to reinstate children’s psychological and social development and to mitigate the adverse effects of armed conflict.

The word ‘psychosocial’ simply underlines the vibrant connection between psychological and social effects, each recurrently influencing the other. ‘Psychological effects’ are those which affect emotion, behaviour, thoughts, memory, learning ability, perceptions and understanding. ‘Social effects’ refer to altered relationships due to bereavement, severance, estrangement and other losses, family and society breakdown, damage to social values and habitual practices and the destruction of social facilities and services. Social effects also extend to the economic dimension as many individuals and families become insolvent through the economic devastation of conflict, losing social status and place in their familiar social network.

Rights of children during war: Dilemma of global humanity
Rights of children during war: Dilemma of global humanity

Right now, there are four major wars ongoing throughout the world. These are Afghanistan conflict, Yemeni crisis, Syrian civil war and Mexican drug war. Other than these, there are several other small to medium scale conflicts like; Kurdish-Turkish conflict, Somali civil war, Ituri conflict, Iraq conflict, Libyan conflict, insurgency in Kashmir, Arab-Israeli conflict, Persian-Gulf crisis etc are ongoing. Moreover, heinous crimes like; ethnic cleansing at the Rakhine state of Myanmar is also continuing, children are the worst victims of all these wars and conflicts without even knowing their faults. They are being stripped off their rights and are facing dire conditions.

For decades, we are finding pictures of starving, skinny children who are being victims of malnutrition. They have lost every right: life, food, cloth, shelter, education, treatment. The mental trauma and physical troubles they face at the very tender age of their lives must leave a permanent scar on their minds and it is very unlikely that, they will ever come out of that. We can never expect a positive prosperous future of these war-stricken children.

During the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, thousands of children were killed, thousands were driven out of their homes and those children were deprived of their rights to education for years. Now thousands of Rohingya children are living an uncertain life at the refugee camps in Bangladesh, due to the humanitarian response of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. This act of Myanmar is a serious crime towards the humanity.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children states that, childhood is separate from adulthood and lasts until 18; it is a special, protected time, in which children must be allowed to grow, learn, play, develop and flourish with dignity. The Convention went on to become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. The hope, vision and commitment of world leaders in 1989 led to the convention.

Geneva Convention is taken as the guide to protect the human rights during the armed conflicts. Regarding the rights of children, Article 23of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV provides: “Each High Contracting Party shall � permit the free passage of all consignments of essential foodstuffs, clothing and tonics intended for children under fifteen”.

Article 24 of the Convention further states: “The Parties to the conflict shall take all necessary measures to ensure that children under fifteen, who are orphaned or are separated from their families as a result of the war, are not left to their own resources” and Article 38 provides that children under 15 years, aliens in the territory of a party to the conflict, “shall benefit by any preferential treatment to the same extent as the nationals of the State concerned”.

There are several other articles, protocols, agreements to protect the children from the ferocity of war, genocide, ethnic cleansing and any other forms of armed conflicts. But unfortunately, they all failed to stop victimization of children in such scenario.

Now all the countries are working on different development and humanitarian goals like; Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But if the children are victimized by war, genocide and ethnic cleansing for the interests of few countries, then these goals cannot be achieved as threats of terrorism and other gruesome crimes will keep increasing as these oppressed and tortured children, without any sound life, may lured into the world of fundamentalism and crime. We should not take that risk.

The world leaders must reach an agreement to follow the set conventions and protect the rights of children for the sake of a bright future of the world. There are many steps they need to take to keep children out of the war. We do not want to see anymore children to suffer the heavy consequences of armed conflicts. We want a safe world for every child and hope the global leaders will move on this issue.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Chief Patron, Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela

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