How are children impacted by armed conflict?

Topics: Worldwide, International Humanitarian Law
January 22, 2013

Children affected by conflict in Sri Lanka receive play therapy and support at a Canadian Red Cross funded centre.

From being forced to abandon their homes to witnessing unspeakable atrocities, millions of children around the world are affected by armed conflict.

Rights of children in armed conflict
As the country's leading humanitarian organization, the Canadian Red Cross is committed to protecting the rights of children during armed conflict.  Their rights are protected through the Geneva Conventions, Additional Protocols 1&2 and the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Children.

These rights include:
Right to education.
Right to the preservation of traditions, moral values and religion in which the child was raised.
Right to humanitarian aid, including access to food, water, clothing and shelter, considers the essentials of life. Conflicting parties are obligated to provide passage of these supplies for children.
Right to medical care.
Right to protection from combat and recruitment into armed forces if under the age of 15.
Right to exemption from the death penalty.

In addition, children who are captured, interned, arrested or detained have the right to be kept in separate quarters from adults who are not family members and given additional food if requested due to physiological needs.

For those who are separated from relatives, international humanitarian law parties to a conflict in the reunification process and to keep families together during detainment.

The dangers of armed conflict
When violence breaks out in a community, children are often the first group to be affected due to their vulnerability. Those under the age of 18 are considered children unless they are found to reach majority age as it pertains to their region.

Many children are forced to flee from their homes out of fear. Young girls are frequently the targets of sexual violence in conflict zones, where rape is used as form of punishment, torture and degradation. Boys and girls alike can be forcibly recruited or coerced into becoming child soldiers, a clear violation of international humanitarian law and a traumatic experience that can leave irreparable psychological damage on children.

Change a child's life - today
The plight of children during wartime demands the attention of the international community. While humanitarian agencies like the Canadian Red Cross strive to help those in need, it depends on the generous support of Canadians like you.

To learn more about how you can improve the condition of a child affected by armed conflict, please visit our website or reach out to your local Red Cross office today.