Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection

By Michael Wessells | Go to book overview

5
Health and HIV/AIDS

The sensational media images and mind-numbing statistics through which war is depicted provide only a faint outline of the monumental damage war causes to civilians’ health. To understand what war means for ordinary people, there is little substitute for seeing their situation firsthand and learning from their narratives, which convey a humbling mixture of struggle and resilience.

In 2002 I visited a village in northern Afghanistan, where the mountainous serenity belied the fury and suffering wreaked by decades of poverty and a chain of devastating wars. The village offered a hopeful, if bizarre, juxtaposition of charred ruins and newly constructed homes built of freshly hewn wood. The Taliban had attacked and destroyed the village completely in October 2001, forcing displaced villagers during the coldest days of winter into an IDP camp with minimal shelter and too little food. The elders told how some people had died in their homes during the attack, whereas others had perished during flight. Living in very difficult, cold conditions, many young children had perished from disease and lack of food and clean water. Death had also claimed many teenage boys, large numbers of whom had fought for the Northern Alliance.

Asked about the availability of health care, the elders explained patiently that their village had never had a health post. Kunduz city, which was over two hours away by car, had the closest hospital, but no one had a vehicle to transport ill or wounded people. The combination of extended drought and land mines had crippled their agriculture and threatened to kill more children. With classic Afghan stoicism, they said

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Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Child Soldiers - From Violence to Protection iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • 1: Child Victims, Young Combatants 1
  • 2: Entry into Armed Groups 31
  • 3: Inside Armed Groups 57
  • 4: Girl Soldiers 85
  • 5: Health and HIV/AIDS 107
  • 6: The Invisible Wounds of War 126
  • 7: Putting Down the Gun 154
  • 8: The Transition to Civilian Life 181
  • 9: Community Reconciliation, Justice, and Protection 208
  • 10: Prevention 232
  • Reference Index 259
  • References 261
  • Index 277
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