Child protection is a special concern in situations of emergency and humanitarian crisis. Many of the defining features of emergencies – displacement, lack of humanitarian access, breakdown in family and social structures, erosion of traditional value systems, a culture of violence, weak governance, absence of accountability and lack of access to basic social services – create serious child protection problems.
Emergencies may result in large numbers of children becoming orphaned, displaced or separated from their families. Children may become refugees or be internally displaced; abducted or forced to work for armed groups; disabled as a result of combat, landmines and unexploded ordnance; sexually exploited during and after conflict; or trafficked for military purposes.
They may become soldiers, or be witnesses to war crimes and come before justice mechanisms. Armed conflict and periods of repression increase the risk that children will be tortured. For money or protection, children may turn to ‘survival sex’, which is usually unprotected and carries a high risk of transmission of disease, including HIV/AIDS.
Failure to protect children undermines national development and has costs and negative effects that continue beyond childhood into the individual’s adult life. While children continue to suffer violence, abuse and exploitation, the world will fail in its obligations to children; it will also fail to meet its development aspirations as laid out in such documents as the Millennium Agenda with its Millennium Development Goals.
Photo: © UNICEF/NYHQ2012-1720/JOSH ESTEYPHILIPPINES, 2012On 21 December, GBoy Quizon, 9, stands amid the remnants of destroyed homes, in the town of Compostela in Compostela Valley Province in Davao Region, in south-eastern Mindanao. His family was among those who received hygiene kits during a distribution at the town’s Compostela High School.