War and Children: A Reference Handbook

War and Children: A Reference Handbook

War and Children: A Reference Handbook

War and Children: A Reference Handbook


They are perhaps war's most tragic victims—children caught in the crossfire of conflicts around the world. The casualties are heartbreaking. Add to them nearly 36 million children not in school because fighting has made it impossible. And then there are those who are actually doing the fighting—the nearly 250,000 boys and girls worldwide who themselves are active soldiers.

A comprehensive, up-to-date presentation of how children and young people are affected by and respond to situations of armed conflict and postwar reconstruction.

War and Children: A Reference Handbook looks at one of the most wrenching aspects of armed conflict, ranging across the globe to examine the different ways armed conflict and postwar reconstructions affect children and young people, and how they have responded to both war and efforts to alleviate war's destruction.

While war has always affected children, the nature of that impact has changed in the last half-century. Civil conflicts break out in mostly poor, developing countries with large populations of young people, and combatants are less hesitant to turn civilian areas into battlegrounds. War and Children explores these phenomena by focusing primarily on recent conflicts worldwide, with case studies dramatizing important issues and controversies—including the considerable number of children soldiers throughout the world.


The nature of warfare and the tactics used by various armed groups have changed tremendously since the end of the Cold War. In particular, intrastate or civil conflicts seem to be much more intensive and their high levels of violence cause incredible damage. The availability of small arms or the plundering of natural resources in certain conflicts prolong and intensify the violence which is often deliberately directed to the most vulnerable members of societies: young people and women.

One of the relatively new dimensions of such conflicts has been the unprecedented use of large groups of children and young people as combatants. This appalling phenomenon changes the nature of societies, communities, and cultures during and after a conflict—probably for decades to come. There are myriad facets to look at in order to understand the impact of the use of children and youth in war.

When war breaks out it brings about chaos, physical destruction of places, separation of families, and psychological exposure to horrors that will scar the memory of people, communities, and societies forever. Armed violence often undermines societal and community norms. Ethical and moral standards and traditions are shattered and all that is left is the uncertainty of whether things will ever change for the better. Added to this already dramatic situation is the loss of belief in the very innocence of children and youth, as they are forced to bring horrors to their own communities.

As a young boy affected by the civil war in my country, Sierra Leone, fighting in the conflict and undergoing rehabilitation and reintegration, I experienced the above scenario myself. The attitudes and perceptions of the population toward children and young people—particularly those who participated in the war—have changed forever. A place where once your innocence as a child was celebrated quickly became a place where children were treated with suspicion and sometimes even fear. Rehabilitation was a difficult and long-term process. I and other ex-child soldiers in the rehabilitation program had to learn how to reconnect with our childhood and humanity again by facing our traumas. We . . .

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