|© UNICEF Sri Lanka/ 2004/Nadaraja|
|Children in Sri Lanka suffer from effects of violence.|
By Blue Chevigny
NEW YORK, 16 June 2006 - Yesterday a landmine exploded under a crowded bus in the northern part of Sri Lanka, killing upwards of 60 people, 18 of them children. It was just one of many recent examples of the violent daily reality of life on this island nation.
Tens of thousands of Sri Lankans were killed during its recent civil war and now a ceasefire brokered in 2002 is being threatened by rising levels of violence.
Sri Lankan children are the most affected by the clashes. Apart from those directly affected, killed or injured, many more are displaced from their homes, or are subject to abduction or recruitment by warring factions.
But all children in Sri Lanka are suffering, even those who have not experienced or witnessed the violence personally. UNICEF Senior Programme Coordinator in Sri Lanka Dr. Yasmin Haque reports that their sense of security and well-being is altered, and they suffer serious consequences.
“Their parents are worried. Schools have been closed. They hear about the violence, they read about it, and they are psychosocially affected,” says Dr. Haque. “Their whole routine is disrupted and they sense fear all around them, rather than the security children really need to thrive on.”
Children’s suggestions for the future
UNICEF Sri Lanka recently joined other NGOs in an initiative called ‘Children as Zones of Peace’, in which children were encouraged to envision how they would improve life if they could. The three most important issues to children surveyed were “to bring poverty levels down, to improve education, and to bring peace to Sri Lanka,” says Dr. Haque. “Ninety-seven per cent of children said we have to work towards peace.”
Schools in many areas remain suspended because of the insecurity. The ongoing violence underlines the urgency for the parties to the conflict to take immediate action to avoid slipping back into a state of war. However, recent attempts to move the peace process forward have not been successful.
UNICEF has been working to promote the peace process in Sri Lanka, and keep the conflict’s affect on children in the forefront of everyone’s mind.
“Even though the violence isn’t directly targeting children,” Dr. Haque says, “it’s affecting their daily life, and it can only have a negative effect on their growth and development.”
16 June 2006: UNICEF Senior Programme Officer Dr. Yasmin Haque describes the increased violence in Sri Lanka and its effect on children.