Children in emergencies: stories of resilience
64 years after World Children's Day was established, the world is not as it should be for children
A staggering 315,000 grave violations against children in conflict were verified by the United Nations between 2005 and 2022, a horrifying illustration of the impact of war and conflict on children.
The UN has also verified more than 16,000 attacks on schools and hospitals, and more than 22,000 instances of denial of humanitarian access for children. As these are just the cases that have been verified, the true toll is likely to be far higher.
Additionally, many millions more children have been displaced from their homes and communities, lost friends or family or been separated from parents or caregivers.
In the last year, children in Europe and Central Asia have been living through war, crossing deadly migration routes in search of safety and peace, leaving their homes and families, dying, living in poverty, and being surrounded by violence.
In a village near Kyiv, 14-year-old Nelya gazes into the distance while her 13-year-old sister Lilya braids her hair. It has been over a year and a half into the full-scale war.
The ongoing hostilities and blackouts have impacted the girls’ mental health. They have become used to hiding when the air raid siren sounds and are forever trying to keep warm in their cold apartment. Last year, it all became too much.
"I constantly felt like crying and had no desire to go outside,” says Nelya. “And once, I lost consciousness. This is how I found myself at a hospital and then with a psychiatrist. When we temporarily moved, I couldn't stop thinking about other people. That they hear explosions and get scared and suffer while I'm doing well.”
The war in Ukraine has threatened the education and future of the country’s chlidren. Around 5.3 million face obstacles to accessing education. Only a third of children inside Ukraine are attending in person learning full-time, the rest are learning online or a mixture of online and in person. As a result, learning losses among Ukraine’s children are now beginning to show.
At the end of September, 30,000 children fled their homes.
Amidst the chaos, some children were able to bring with them items they hold dear to their hearts, mostly small in size but huge in significance.
Fifteen-year-old Eduard managed to take only a part of his extensive collection of medals when he fled. He had dedicated six years to his karate practice, accumulating a remarkable assortment of medals and trophies.
Eleven-year-old Vika and many other children had to flee with nothing, just what they had on that day, when the fear set in, and they fled in search of safety. Vika was not even able to return home. She went from shelter to shelter with her brothers and grandmother in the first days before they could reach Armenia.
Ten-year-old Sidra sits in one of the tents her extended family lives in after their homes were destroyed, in Antakya, Hatay, Türkiye, by the devastating earthquakes that struck southern Türkiye and Syria in February.
Sidra navigates life after the disaster and the death of her father and sister. Her grandfather, Hassan, has stepped in as a pillar of strength and support. Sidra stays in her grandparents’ garden, where the extended family now lives between three tents and two containers in Antakya, Hatay, Türkiye.
Between January and mid-September, more than 11,600 unaccompanied and separated children made the perilous journey across the deadly Central Mediterranean Sea migration route to Italy.
Travelling alone without their parents or legal guardian, in search of safety and better opportunities, often fleeing armed conflict and war, these children are exposed to exploitation and abuse on every step of their journeys.
Fifteen-year-old Anaya* arrived in Italy from Sierra Leone, “I miss everything about my country. I left home because I felt in danger. Ever since my father remarried, my life had changed. I had to leave school and work at the market, trying to scrape together something for the family, my stepmother and my younger brothers, but it wasn't enough.
“So, they decided that I should marry an older man. 40 years old, 25 years older than me. I know what happens and how dangerous it can be for girls.”