As I sip my cup of coffee from the comfort of my home, I can’t help but think of the words of John F. Kennedy: "Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future." Reminding me of the profound importance the youngest members of our society have. They are not only responsible for their own futures but also bear the weight of shaping their nations. And we as a society, have one great duty, that is, to take adequate care of our children, for they are the guardians of our future. But are we doing that correctly?
On this Children's Day, it is only fitting that we also address critical issues. The world today is facing countless challenges, from conflicts and war to numerous forms of exploitation. And this raises another haunting question: Is today's world truly safe for children?
With a heavy heart I have to say no! Unfortunately, as we talk right now, 452 million children are living in conflict zones (1 in every 6 worldwide), in shadows of poverty, violence, exploitation, and hardship.
Lack of access to quality education, child labour, and trafficking continue to threaten the safety and well-being of countless children in various places.
According to a report by UNICEF, since the beginning of this decade, the UN has verified over 170,000 grave violations against children in conflict zones. This staggering number equates to more than 45 violations occurring every day for the past 10 years.
Furthermore, the report underscores that in 2019, 160 million children lived in high-intensity conflict zones, revealing a troubling surge compared to 2018. And since 2019, the war conflict scenario has only worsened.
The impact of war on children is incalculable, depriving them of their hopes and access to crucial resources, and irreversibly changing a child's life trajectory.
The report, "Stop the War on Children" by Save the Children highlights the six grave violations committed against children in conflict zones, with over 200,000 such violations verified over the past decade. Some violations, notably sexual abuse, go grossly underreported.
The report also narrates the story of Mohammad, a 15-year-old living in Afghanistan. Mohammad lost his hand due to an explosive device he unknowingly brought home. His experience is a heartbreaking reality of the tragic consequences that these wars have on young lives. What’s more saddening is there are a million such incidents that go unreported and we will never know of.
The world is at war and that’s a war against children. Armed conflicts kill children, displace them, make them orphans and rob them of their dreams. Do we want our future to be hopeless? Since the last three years there's been a sudden spike in conflicts and we are losing lives more than ever.
During the two-year reporting period in Afghanistan, the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict 2021 verified, that there were 6,473 grave violations committed against 6,131 children and 5,770 more boys and girls have been murdered or critically injured. The death rate has only increased in the first half of 2021 and as of now, we have no updates.
The year 2022 had the largest number of grave violations ever recorded by the United Nations, which we know will be surpassed by the 2023 reports. 2022 alone recorded 8,630 killings or mutilations, 7,622 instances of recruitment and 3,985 abductions. Over 1 million children were displaced in Sudan and Ukraine. There were also confirmed attacks in 1,163 schools and 647 hospitals.
As of 2023, there have been more than 4100 children killed in Gaza and 32 children held hostage by Hamas, a result of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Over 1350 children are displaced, and with schools and hospitals being bombed, they have nowhere to go. With each airstrike and rocket fired, the sense of security that every child deserves is ripped away.
A child witnessing their loved and dear ones die; home, school and hospitals turn into dust, lack of food and water, no vital aid causes psychological trauma beyond one's comprehension.
Ahmed, a recreational coordinator in Idlib, Syria shares, “[The children] are always stressed. Constant anxiety. We notice that Syrian children, through our work with them, they are not like other children. They’re always stressed. Any unfamiliar noise, if a chair moves, or if a door bangs shut, they have a reaction. This is the result of their fear – of the sound of planes, of rockets, of war,” Reading this statement made me wonder if we want our future to grow anxious?
You might ask me why am I so bothered by wars that have nothing to do with my country?
I’m anxious and fearful because the future is uncertain and it goes beyond armed wars; it extends to silent wars that millions of children battle everyday as they try their best to survive.
India has more than 12 666 377 child labourers, with an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years. According to the most recent National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, crimes against minors in India increased by 16.2 percent between 2020 and 2021; The country recorded 1,49,404 cases, about 36.05% of these crimes involved kidnapping, abduction, and sexual assault. As per NCRB 2021 reports, everyday at least 8 children are being trafficked in India. 1.2 Billion children worldwide are living in poverty; India alone accounts for 97 million.
A question I can’t help but ask, after having International and National organisations for safeguarding children’s rights, why do they still suffer such crimes and consequences?
Didn’t our first Prime Minister, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru say, “The children of today will make the India of tomorrow”? Then why are we failing so miserably at it? Are we performing our duties correctly? Or, we just don’t care? Let us all take this moment to consider the efficacy of our efforts and hope for a change.