Child protection is about keeping kids safe from violence, exploitation and abuse.
It’s an issue in every country - including here in the UK. We have strict laws, specialist social services teams and charities like the NSPCC and Barnardo’s that are all in place specifically to prevent and respond to child protection violation. Serious and widespread child protection failures are thankfully fairly rare here.
But in conflict affected countries, child protection violations happen on a huge scale.
Children are killed or wounded by the fighting, some may be used as soldiers, many are forced to flee their homes or are separated from their parents. Sexual violence against girls is used as a weapon of war in some conflicts too.
What/Who protects children?
What happens in conflict-affected countries?
Governments and laws don’t protect children.
- The state barely functions in many conflict-affected countries and its social welfare and health systems have been destroyed.
- Some may endorse laws and conventions on children’s rights, but they don’t enforce them.
- In many countries the government agencies like the army and the police are underpaid and under trained and they are often the perpetrators of violence and abuse against children, rather than their protectors.
Families are torn apart by war.
- Parents and siblings may be killed or injured in the fighting, or have been forced to flee or conscript.
- Most are living in extreme poverty and families can’t afford to look after their children properly. They may have to send them out to work or beg for food.
- In DR Congo extreme poverty has seen many families accuse their children of ‘witchcraft’ – which is often a way of using them as a scapegoat for the family’s economic woes.
- In Iraq some families are forced to sell their daughters into temporary marriages.
Whole communities may flee the fighting and become Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in their own countries, or flee over the borders as refugees.
- Poverty and conflict also causes sectarian and tribal violence in the hunt for dwindling resources.
- Traditional roles within families and communities also come under stress – e,g, in Uganda where men are no longer providing and protecting for their families, they often turn to violence or alcoholism as coping mechanisms.
Schools are no longer a safe haven.
- They are often destroyed, or the parents can’t afford to send their kids there (buying uniforms, paying fees).
- The teachers may have been killed or fled.
- In Afghanistan and Uganda schools themselves have been targeted by rebel groups.
What is War Child doing?
Government & Laws
In Congo we're helping to train the government in enforcing the Child Protection laws.
We're training social workers in Afghanistan.
We're helping to separate children from adults in prisons in Afghanistan.
In all the countries we work in, we're helping families generate an income so they can help support their children and keep them in school.
In Congo we're reunifying former child soldiers and street children with their families.
Our child protection committees are made up of local community members in every country we work in. Local people are trained to identify and protect vulnerable children in their community.
Our 'Reflect circles' in Uganda are teaching vital literacy skills to the whole community.
We've built a school in Uganda and helped refurbish ones in Iraq
We're providing uniforms, books and fees so that children from poor families can attend school.
We're also providing a lot of vocational training outside a formal school environment to help young people earn the skills than can earn themselves an income for years to come.