Save the Children: UK can be a global champion for the world’s most vulnerable children
The UK is uniquely well placed to globally champion measures that will protect and improve the lives of children caught up in conflict, says Save the Children.
The UK can be a global champion for the world’s most vulnerable children. As recent events in Syria and Yemen have shown, it’s more important than ever.
For almost 100 years, Save the Children has been supporting and protecting children in war. Through our frontline work in some of the world’s deadliest conflicts, we are witnessing the impact today’s conflicts are having on children.
We see fighting increasingly based in cities and towns, where the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects (EWIPA) is having a devastating impact on civilians caught up in the fighting. These weapons disproportionally kill and maim civilians and the impact on children is particularly destructive. They destroy homes, schools and hospitals, and also fall on weddings and busy market places.
When an explosive weapon goes off in a populated area, a child is more likely than an adult to sustain multiple injuries; more likely to suffer burns and trauma; and more likely to feel terror.
Daily exposure to the kind of destructive violence endured by the Rohingya, or children in Syria and Yemen, will likely lead to a rise in long-term mental health disorders such as major depressive disorder, separation anxiety disorder, overanxious disorder– and post-traumatic stress disorder after the conflict ends.
The longer and more repeated the traumatic experiences faced, the harder it is for children to recover without appropriate support. And the greater the risk of a broken generation, lost to trauma and extreme stress.
So, if children are increasingly bearing the brunt of the modern warfare, what can the UK do to help?
The UK can help protect children in conflict with its leadership in military expertise, soft power and humanitarian response. It can firstly improve measures to protect children in conflict, including updating its civilian protection strategy and training manuals to reflect the new challenges, improve civilian harm tracking and casualty recording as well as consistently champion accountability mechanisms at the UN and in other forums.
The UK Government can also work with international allies to drive forward global action and investment in children’s mental and psychosocial health and reverse the long-term damage that will be done to a generation of children.
We know from previous British led initiatives on preventing sexual violence in conflict and global campaigns on cluster munitions and landmines, that changes in policy, practice and global norms can limit the impact of conflict on civilians. Last week’s announcement by the Foreign Secretary to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration commits the UK to take concrete measures towards protecting education in conflict. This is a vital step forward in enhancing the protection of children, but there is more that Britain and the international community can do.
The UK is a diplomatic giant, a top-tier military power, and a world-renowned development actor. These assets, qualities and expertise make the UK uniquely well placed to globally champion measures that will protect and improve the lives of children caught up in conflict.