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Armed conflict and poor governance escalate the risk of exclusion for children

Armed conflict causes children to miss out on their childhood in a multitude of ways. Children recruited as soldiers are denied an education and protection, and are often unable to access essential health-care services. Those who are displaced, refugees or separated from their families face similar deprivations.

Conflict heightens the risk of children being exposed to abuse, violence and exploitation - with sexual violence often employed as a weapon of war. Even those children who are able to remain with their families, in their own homes, may face a greater risk of exclusion from school, health-care facilities and protection because of the destruction of physical infrastructure, strains on health-care and education systems, workers and supplies, and increasing personal insecurity caused by the conflict or its remnants - such as landmines and unexploded ordnance.

Firm evidence of the impact of armed conflict on exclusion is limited, in part because of gaps in research and data collection on the numbers of children caught up in conflict. Nevertheless, the available linkages are indicative of the extent of exclusion - and they are alarming. Of the 9 countries where 20 per cent or more of children die before the age of five, 10 have suffered a major armed conflict in the past five years [figure 2.3], and 11 of the 20 countries with the most elevated rates of under-five mortality have experienced major armed conflict since 1990.

Armed conflict also has devastating effects on primary school enrolment and attendance. For example, the nine conflict-affected countries where 1 in 5 children die before the age of five have an average net primary school attendance ratio of 51 per cent for boys and 44 per cent for girls, well below the corresponding averages of 60 and 55, respectively, for the least developed countries as a whole.