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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 crime.

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.

Jean-François Berger
ICRC editor

Jean Milligan
Federation editor

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