Although the Kony 2012 campaign was widely criticised for its inaccuracies, it did once again draw the world’s attention to the situation for children in Uganda, which despite the demise of the civil conflict was still ranked 97 of 141 countries for 2005-10 (decline of 3 places from 2000-04), by the Child Development Index in this year’s report.
In the context of the conflict in Syria, ignited with the Arab Spring movement in March 2011, it could be said that such a campaign is now needed for children there, whose plight has been noted but is yet to receive the worldwide attention that it warrants.
The United Nations has received reports of grave violations against children in the Syrian Arab Republic since the beginning of the conflict. Such reports are supported by those of other organisations including Human Rights Watch and War Child UK (see Wikichild Spotlight). According to the UN’s Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict these violations include killing, maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence, and use as human shields.
The degree of this violence, and the targeting of children has shocked even those most experienced in these sorts of atrocities with the UN Special Representative Radhika Coomaraswamy stating recently,
“Killing and maiming of children in crossfire is something we come across in many conflicts but this torture of children, children as young as 10, is something quite extraordinary which we don’t really see in other places”.
With the persistence of the conflict, surviving families and children who escaped to refugee camps in neighbouring countries are, like those in Uganda, now faced with the aftermath of their experiences and new battles of coping with trauma and life in a refugee camp. In a camp in Jordan, humanitarian workers are reported to be doing their utmost to ‘establish a sense of normalcy for children,’ said Tamer Kirolos, the Jordan country director with Save the Children. UNICEF committed funds for a swing set, slide, a soccer field and tents that will be used for art and music programs, informal education as well as psychological counselling for children (the Star, 13.08.2012).
This week’s Wikichild spotlight feature from War Child UK, chronicles the impact of the conflict of the war on Syrian children and reports that the depth of the conflict is such that “legal instruments, and the international community who signed up to them, have proved completely unable to furnish any measure of security for children.” As the report states, children in countries in conflict should be able to depend on adults throughout the world to take steps to ensure their safety and fundamental rights as detailed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.