Children are killed
or injured each day as a result of armed conflict. They may
lose an arm, a leg, a mother, a best friend or an entire family.
Many are forced to leave their homes, find shelter where they
can, eat what they find, and are often responsible for younger
brothers and sisters. Increasingly, they are coerced into
becoming child soldiers. To be a child in war is to be deprived
of a childhood.
Today the number of children affected by war is greater than
ever. For the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement,
the challenge of assisting child victims is considerable.
Indeed, to come to the aid of child victims of war is a difficult
undertaking, as can be seen from the accounts from Ethiopia,
Russia and Sierra Leone featured in this issue's cover story.
Caring for child victims of war requires long-term commitment
— it can take years for them to overcome the traumas
of conflict. Take, for example, the rehabilitation of wounded
children, especially those who have had a limb amputated while
in their full growth phase; for them, the road to psychological
recovery is long and hard. Serious relapses are unfortunately
likely in the absence of an appropriate humanitarian response.
Rehabilitating child soldiers after a conflict requires helping
them to build a productive future to prevent their becoming
victims of poverty and forced to live on the street. By the
same token, caring for street children is a way of pre-empting
them from being recruited into armed groups and organized
National Societies, by focusing their efforts more on children
exploited and traumatized by war, are showing exemplary foresight
in attempting to reduce vulnerability of this magnitude. Certainly,
such a task requires long-standing expertise, the ability
to interact with local partners and sufficient resources.
None of this would appear to be out of the reach of the largest
humanitarian network in the world.