Opinion: Was there ever a child who started a war?

Palestinian Children, HebronI attended the conference to ‘End Sexual Violence in Conflict’ (ESVC) and I was horrified by the true life testimonies of how babies as young as 8 months are raped. I approached the War Child staff at the conference and asked about getting involved in their work. Today is National Refugee Day 2014. The purpose of this post is to raise awareness among Lib Dems and to urge you to factor the unspeakable horrors that children suffer into any part of your work or volunteering or fund raising opportunities. It could be that you come into contact with refugee children even in the UK.

We all have a responsibility towards others. At a simple level it is about making sure that others are safe and secure. With refugee children, if safety and security cannot be guaranteed in their countries, if wars must be started, then the world owes displaced children some type of normal childhood.

What would a child aged 10 in the UK, for instance, be doing now? They would probably be looking forward to playing in the sunshine and enjoying a family vacation during the holidays. The true life stories’ of refugee children, by contrast, is of death and suffering. As an example, Dima’s is a 10 year old girl whose father was hit by a rocket when they were fleeing Syria. For safety reasons Dima, her mother and siblings had to run away quickly without burying him. Children like her are looked after by War Child in camps like the one called Za’atari in Jordan.

When children arrive at these camps they are traumatised, broken in spirit and scared. They don’t get to do the normal activities of a child such as attending school. They are taught how to cope with their situation and are provided with counselling. Despite work like this, children are still exposed to atrocious experiences and living conditions that disturb and harm their well being.

But even in camps children face numerous dangers and risks. Reports of sexual violence and crime are high, especially at night. Women and children are most vulnerable in these instances. Most of the families in the camp are poor and marry their daughters off for money or send their young sons out to work for as little as 70p for 10 hours work.

I am so glad that the Lib Dems ended child detention but now we need to focus on the refugee situation. Whilst there is societal insecurity we must not look the other way. So often the treatment of refugees is caught up with immigration and this cannot be the way forward because innocent children are forming a generation of lost people.

* Maelo Manning is a 15 year old Lib Dem member. She blogs as Lib Dem Child.

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One Comment

  • Suzanne Fletcher 20th Jun '14 - 2:41pm

    Maelo is so right and it gives me hope for the future that there are young people who can recogise these situations and want to do what we can to alleviate the unecessary suffering. As she says none of these conflicts were caused by children.
    The situation in the refugee camps in countries next to Syria are truly appalling and having a huge impact on their host countries. Lebanese children now have to go to school for half the day, so refugees can go in the second half. And that is where it is possible to do this. In othe places there is nothing. And yet the UK is only prepared to take a few of these refugees.
    In this country how we treat those seeking sanctuary here is not good for children either, in other ways, but this posting is about the Syrian refugees.
    Keep on caring and campaigning Maelo (our youngest member of Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary)

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