[Note from Kathie Malley-Morrison: Today we welcome guest contributor Mimi Maritz, a senior at Boston University studying psychology and economics. In her free time she volunteers for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and practices meditation and yoga. Next year she will be working as a special education teacher in Boston as part of the Teach for America corps.]
By Mimi Maritz
Among the many devastating aspects of war is its effects on children. Far from innocent bystanders, children are often casualties of war–through death, disease, malnutrition or injury. For example, from 1985-1995, an estimated 2 million children were killed due to war*.
Many children in war zones become refugees due to separation from or death of their family. Orphaned children often have limited access to food and clean water and therefore become susceptible to deadly illnesses and face life-long health problems. It is estimated that such diseases account for 60-80% of the deaths of displaced children of war*.
Those that survive are not considered lucky. In many instances, vulnerable boys are brainwashed into becoming child soldiers, working with the oppressors and regularly engaging in combat. Girls can be exploited into sex trade, forced to offer sexual services, married off to rebel leaders, or even sexually mutilated.
Beyond death, injury, exploitation and displacement, children in war zones are often emotionally damaged and suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They typically lose years of education, and the level of violence that they see can alter their normal development and lead to a skewed sense of reality.
If we hope to live in a peaceful and just world, we must start with the children because they are the seeds of the change we hope to see.
To learn more about the effects of war on children, visit the following websites: