War can be particularly devastating for children. They often find themselves separated from their families and at huge risk of physical harm, violence or sexual exploitation. They suffer physical and psychological damage that can last a lifetime.
That’s why child protection is at the heart of what War Child does. We intervene quickly when conflicts start, to prevent abuse or neglect of children.
Scale of the child protection challenge
More than half the displaced people in the world are children.
Right now there are 30 million children who have been forced to leave their homes or are separated from their families because of wars.
The average time a person is displaced is 17 years.
That can mean an entire childhood!
What our child protection work involves
We work with children, families, communities, legal services and local authorities before, during and after armed conflicts to develop more child-focused attitudes and systems.
This can include ‘psychosocial support’, rescuing and reintegrating ‘child soldiers’, working with legal systems to improve justice for children, setting up child helplines and community-based child protection networks.
Our child protection work in more detail...
This can include counselling and a range of other interactive approaches that help children to regain a sense of normality in unfamiliar and difficult circumstances.
It’s vital to create safe, child-friendly spaces for children to play in, and where we can assess what kind of other medical, psychological or social help they might need.
We encourage the children to express themselves, building their confidence and resilience so they can cope better and recover quicker from the effects of war.
The use of children by armed forces and groups is one of the worst violations in war.
These children are not always recruited to fight – they can be used as porters, cooks, spies or for sexual purposes. (The wider term used is ‘Children Associated with Armed Forces And Groups’, or CAAFAG.)
They’re often abducted by the armed groups, but some are lured in by promises of education, security, money and status, and others are indoctrinated or forced.
We are committed to helping release children from armed groups and supporting them to get back to their families and communities, to go to school, build life-skills and, for older adolescents, train for jobs.
War Child operates child-focused phonelines with local partners in Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
We help set up the phonelines and train the operatives to handle calls and make referrals to relevant agencies.
Justice for children
Sometimes children can become caught up in the legal system simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or for cultural reasons.
They can find themselves being jailed for petty crimes or religious beliefs.
In a lot of countries children are held in adult prisons, trials can be lengthy and distressing and, once released, children can find it hard to complete school or find jobs later.
We work with children, families and the legal and judicial sectors to find alternatives to detention, and make the system as child-friendly as possible.
Working with child protection groups and networks at community level can be really helpful, especially in the remoter areas where we often work, where services can be basic.
Their members are local people, sometimes religious leaders, who are committed to protecting children and supporting survivors of abuse, exploitation and neglect. They can often be first to spot violations against children, and can also raise awareness about children’s rights, and help refer children and families to specialist services if needed.
War Child is also a member of the Child Protection Working Group.