By Rihana Jemal

Image by ICRC –

Armed conflicts affect a significant part of the lives and well-being of civilians. Children are one of the most affected civilians. Keeping that in mind, as stated in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, ‘the child, due to his or her physical and mental immaturity, needs special protection and care, including adequate legal protection, before as well as and after birth.’[1]  Due to armed conflicts, it is easy to understand that millions of children around the world are unable to enjoy their rights. Such problems threaten the current and future well-being of the next generation, the children of today.

Each child has the right to bear the fruit of his or her childhood. For example, in addition to all human and democratic rights, children need to enjoy their childhood by playing, engaging with peers, having quality childcare, and many others. Children affected by armed conflict are usually denied their basic needs, their basic rights.  Numerous conventions and protocols have been adopted; various panel discussions and forums have been held worldwide to address this issue and its long-term effect. Two of these are the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the June 29, 1998, UN Security Council first open debate on Children and Armed Conflicts.

Often serious violations against children in armed conflict such as killing and maiming, rape and sexual violence, recruitment and use of children , child abduction, school and hospital attacks and denial of humanitarian access. This shows that the impact is beyond measure. Olara Otunnu, former Under Secretary General and Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflicts[2]. He rightly pointed out to the UN Security Council that the first debate on children and armed conflict areas involved the Council in moving towards ‘prevention, protection, and recovery.’[3]

In armed conflicts, the fundamental principles laid down in the Geneva Convention must be respected and implemented. The lack of respect for the concepts of distinction, proportionality, and precaution is illustrated by a rise in the killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools and hospitals in a variety of situations of conflict having impacts on children and communities. Some of the impacts are permanent disabilities and prolonged disruption of education and health service.[4] Therefore, in one way or another, respect for international humanitarian law results in the protection of children in armed conflict. 

Children in armed conflict are also faced with problems for the future. For example, the vast majority of Southern Sudanese children have been denied their right to education and missed opportunities to learn practical skills that would prepare them for jobs and their future careers.[5] Nowadays, most children are exposed to forced migration, child trafficking, discrimination, child labor, lack of self-esteem, and other further Problems. These problems remain unresolved and outstanding.

A research by Save the Children shows that the involvement of international humanitarian agencies tends to reflect the hope and expectations of children in armed conflict. However, migration and instability have also contributed to a decline in the amount of humanitarian assistance available to children and young people, which in turn serve as a driving force for recruitment and re-recruitment.[6]

Every day, the unspeakable horrors that children have to endure remind us of the immense task ahead of us.[7] We all are responsible. We must not wait any longer so that the voice of the young generation affected by armed conflict to be heard.

[1] . Convention on the Rights of the Child, Preamble.

[2] . ‘’Olara A. Otunna (Cote d’Ivoire), Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict’’, United Nations press release, SG/A/655, BIO/3110, 10 October 1997.

[3] . 20 Years to BETTER PROTECT CHILDREN AFFECTED BY CONFLICT, Office of the Special Representative  of the Secretary- General for CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT, 2016 P. 18.

[4] . ibid, 40-41.


[6] . Stolen Futures, reintegration of children affected by armed conflict Submission to the ten-year review of the 1996,  Machel study on the impact of armed conflict on children, Save the children P.29

[7] Note 3 P. 46