The impact of conflict extends far beyond the frontlines. More than 29 million babies were born into areas experiencing armed conflict in 2018, spending their earliest moments in chaos, often in deeply unsafe, and highly stressful environments.
“Some of the young children we see shake with fear, uncontrollably, for hours on end. They don’t sleep. You can hear them whimpering, it’s not a usual cry but a cold, weak whimper. Others are so malnourished and traumatized they detach emotionally from the world and people around them, causing them to become vacant and making it impossible for them to interact with their families.”
That’s how a UNICEF staff member described the situation for the children and babies in her care at an early childhood development centre in Yemen. It’s a reminder of how children born into conflict are so vulnerable, their childhoods stolen, their futures uncertain.
Preventing a lost generation means providing safe spaces and supporting caregivers to help create a buffer between these children and the chaos around them. These photos, taken across Afghanistan, the State of Palestine and Yemen, highlight UNICEF’s work improving children’s access to education, critical health services and safe spaces to play – the building blocks for a real childhood.
(Above): Malik was born in the middle of a drought, as intensified fighting forced his family to flee their home. He is one of around 600,000 severely malnourished children under the age of 5 in Afghanistan. Malik’s mother holds him as they wait to be seen by a UNICEF-supported mobile health team in the Shaidayee Camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the rural province of Herat, in northwestern Afghanistan. Mobile health teams provide health care in some of the world’s worst crises, reaching people who have been cut off from access to health services.