At least 29 million babies were born into conflict affected countries in 2018 alone, the UN children’s agency has said.
These countries include South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan.
In a press release issued Friday, more than 1 in 5 babies globally spent their earliest moments in communities affected by the chaos of conflict, often in deeply unsafe, and highly stressful environments.
It says when young children experience prolonged or repeated adverse and traumatic events, the brain’s stress management system is activated without relief, causing ‘toxic stress’.
Over time, stress chemicals break down existing neural connections and inhibit new ones from forming, leading to lasting consequences for children’s learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.
Unicef quotes one of its workers in South Sudan as saying that he travelled to the hardest to reach areas of South Sudan to help provide humanitarian assistance to children who have been forced to flee their villages because of violence.
“With no basic services, no health facilities, poor sanitation, no food, and deep-set trauma, families struggle to survive,” the unnamed humanitarian stated.
“I see despair in the eyes of the children I meet. The conflict has taken away their childhood.”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child, in which, among other things, governments pledged to protect and care for children affected by conflict.
Yet today, more countries are embroiled in internal or international conflict than at any other time in the past three decades, threatening the safety and wellbeing of millions of children, sad Unicef.
Hospitals, health centers and child friendly spaces – all of which provide critical services to parents and babies – have come under attack in conflicts around the world in recent years.
It added that providing safe spaces for families and their young children living through conflict – where children can use play and early learning as outlets for some of the trauma they have experienced; and providing psycho-social support to children – and their families – are critical parts of UNICEF’s humanitarian response.
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