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The war on children

Convention bans use of children as soldiers - common in wars of recent years.

Most of the casualties of modern wars are not soldiers but civilians - a high proportion of them children. In the last decade, an estimated 2 million children have been killed in armed conflicts. Perhaps 4 to 5 million more have been disabled, and more than 12 million made homeless.

Many more millions have been traumatized by the atrocities they have been forced to witness or take part in.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child calls on governments to take special measures to protect children in the event of armed conflict. It also bans the use of children as soldiers - common practice in several of the wars of recent years including those in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Mozambique.

Statistics on children affected by war are scarce. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that approximately 23 million men, women, and children across the world have left their homelands to escape persecution and violence.

In addition, there are an estimated 26 million `internal refugees' who have been forced to leave their homes but who have not crossed national boundaries.

In the refugee populations for which relevant data are available, the proportion of under-18s is regularly more than 50%.

To and from Nearly half of the world's estimated 23 million refugees have fled from just five countries. Other UNHCR surveys of refugee and displaced populations in 13 countries show that half or more are under 18.

From:	Afghanistan	  2,800,000
To:	Iran		  1,600,000
	Pakistan	  1,200,000

From:	Rwanda		  2,000,000
To:	Zaire		  1,100,000
	Tanzania	    600,000
	Burundi & others    300,000

From:	Liberia	            846,000
To:	Guinea   	    450,000
	Côte d'Ivoire	    360,000
	Ghana		     16,000
	Sierra Leone	     16,000
	Nigeria	              4,000

From:	Somalia	            510,000
To:	Ethiopia	    240,000
	Kenya		    170,000
	Yemen & others       80,000
	Djibouti	     20,000

From:	Former Yugoslavia 3,700,000
To:	Bosnia	          2,700,000
	Serbia	            405,000
	Croatia	            380,000
	UN protected areas  122,000
	Macedonia & Slovenia 49,000
	Montenegro	     44,000

Source: UNHCR, A monthly digest of UNHCR activities, March 1995.

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