In the last century, armed conflicts were limited mostly to rural settings caused by multiple reasons including ethnic, socio-cultural, religious and economic motives, but in recent years, an increase in urbanized armed conflicts have quantum-folded the impact of such disasters on the affected population. Of all such affectees, children and youth make the major proportion; mostly above 60% of the total affected population, which are more vulnerable and directly affected by the situation as compared to grown-ups and elderly people. In such cases, grave violations have been reportedly committed against these vulnerable groups (children and youth) in war-affected countries from Asia to the Middle East, to Africa and Latin America. Girls and boys are killed, maimed, orphaned, abducted, deprived of basic human needs and services (education, health care and WASH), sexually violated and left with deep emotional and physical trauma’s lasting often to the lengths of their lives.
Vulnerable to recruitment, hundreds and thousands of children and youth were associated with state and non-state armed conflicts in most parts of Africa since the end of last century. Improvisation in motivating the youth and children through mass media in recent years have created a high degree of vulnerability situation not only to the children and youth in and around conflict zones but throughout the world, whereby people as parties to such conflicts have been able to recruit youth from around the world, dragging them to take part in the conflict inside the conflict zones.
The prominence of civilian casualties, including children and youth, in contemporary conflicts is a reflection of the changing nature of conflict, in which we see the increased use of improvised explosive devices and new technologies, the conduct of hostilities increasingly in urban or densely populated areas, and a blurring of the distinction between civilians and combatants. In some country-situations, children and youth have also been used as suicide bombers and schools being systematically attacked and destroyed jeopardizing the life of children and preventing them from going to schools.
Besides these, children and youth also suffer from other dire consequences of conflict such as poverty due to loss of assets, means of livelihoods and resources by their parents, unemployment in a state of displacement or limited or no economic opportunities upon returns to their areas after the conflict, poor governance and the disintegration of families and communities. Non-existence of basic human services and facilities in post conflict scenarios such as schools, hospitals and other community services keeps the affected communities in a dire state of underdevelopment. Especially, the lack or destruction of educational facilities affects generations of children and youth in such situation on yearly basis, for a one year loss in education deprives most of the children and youth from pursuing their education afterwards.
On the above notes, rehabilitation and reintegration of children and youth formerly associated with armed groups is particularly important in order to break cycles of violence and to find a new existence after a life of conflict and distress. For the purpose, in crises state interventions on psycho-social support, education, life skills and skills development are important factors to ensure preventing long-term negative effects on youth and children from these conflicts besides helping them restore their lives after the conflicts.
Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes should build on individuals’ strengths, especially their resilience. Children and youth should be consulted in this process, with specific issues, including the needs of girls, explicitly addressed.