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Conflicts and war can have a profound and enduring impact on children. From physical wounds to emotional scars, conflict and war can affect a child on many levels.

Around the world, more than 420 million children – or one in six children – are living in a conflict zone. Millions more are living in a country affected by conflict.

Below are the different ways in which conflict harms children and how, together, we can help alleviate its impacts.

Photo above: Giovanni Diffidenti / WeWorld

Where Children are Impacted by War and Conflict

Children around the world – from Ethiopia to Afghanistan and Ukraine – are without food, clean water, shelter and protection.

In Ukraine, an average of at least two children have been killed or injured every day since Russia’s invasion began in February 2022. Millions more children have fled their homes and are living in temporary shelters in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. Thirteen-year-old David remembers when the shooting first began in his town, near the capital Kyiv.

In Afghanistan, the impact of conflict on children has been compounded by the effects of drought, food shortages and poverty. Restrictions and limited work opportunities have made it difficult for women to earn an income; widowed and single mothers and their children are hungry.

There are many more countries that are facing war or conflict right now; in every case, children are the most vulnerable.

The Impacts of War and Conflict on Children

Children caught up in conflict are often deprived of food, protection, education, and their childhood. Many families who have fled their homes have no way of earning an income, so cannot access food, clean water, or health care. Without assistance, children are more likely to face hunger, sickness and disease.

According to the United Nations (UN), there are Six Grave Violations against children during armed conflict. 

  • Killing and maiming of children
  • Recruitment or use of children as soldiers
  • Sexual violence against children
  • Abduction of children
  • Attacks against schools or hospitals
  • Denial of humanitarian access for children

Between 2005 and 2022, the UN verified 315,000 grave violations against children in conflict.

Children who have been forced to leave their homes because of war and conflict are often without alternative shelter and cannot go to school. This puts them at a higher risk of abuse and exploitation. Displaced girls and women, and unaccompanied children, are particularly at risk.

Exposure to violence, and constant fear and uncertainty caused by war and conflict, can have negative, long-term impacts on children. This includes a child’s psychological, emotional, and social development. Poor development in these areas can affect a child’s ability to learn and, in turn, their job prospects in the future. This means, for a child living in poverty, conflict will perpetuate the cycle of disadvantage in their family.

What can I do to Help Children in Conflict?

At ChildFund, we are working with local partners on the ground in conflict zones and conflict-affected communities to help children and their families survive and begin to recover from the impacts of war.

A donation to our Children in Conflict appeal can help provide food, clean water and health care to displaced children and their families.

It can also help create safe spaces for children, where they can play and experience a sense of normality amid the turmoil and uncertainty caused by conflict. These spaces also offer counselling for children to help them cope and recover from the psychological, social, and emotional impacts of conflict.

To help even more children, you can donate monthly to ChildFund Australia. A regular donation allows us and our local partners to quickly respond to conflicts and crises, as well as continue the long-term work that supports children and young people to be safe, healthy, and educated.

Or, round up your colleagues and give back together through workplace giving

This generation of young people is the largest in history. Because of this, it is now more important than ever before to make sure youth are fully engaged in social and legal issues. Many young people today must also navigate a number of competing challenges, including rising costs of living, climate change, technological advancements (AI anyone?), inequality and conflict.

When is World Youth Skills Day?

World Youth Skills Day is held on Saturday 15 July 2023.

Why is World Youth Skills Day so important?

World Youth Skills Day is an opportunity to highlight the importance of young people and the skills they bring and can contribute to the world. This includes youth facing disadvantage, including girls and young women, young people with disabilities, young people from poorer households, young indigenous people, young people living in rural communities, and those facing violent conflict and political instability.

World Youth Skills Day aims to break down the barriers that can prevent some young people from accessing work, and to boost productivity and wage levels among youth around the world.

World Youth Skills Day 2023 provides a chance to tackle the cultural and legal issues young people experience, as well as to provide youth with all the skills and training they will need to reach their full potential.

Why we are celebrating World Youth Skills Day!

We are celebrating World Youth Skills Day so young people can have their voices heard and the contributions they are making to the world around them are acknowledged.

How investing in young people can change the world … one community at a time

SreyYorng, 23, (pictured below) is the first person in her village in Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia, to graduate from university and become a midwife.

She said the support of her family and the skills she developed in a youth project run by ChildFund Cambodia and local partners helped her to achieve her goal. “My family’s assistance in helping me complete my studies, along with my experiences with youth groups, are what I believe have contributed to my success,” SreyYorng said.

“I am proud to be the first woman to graduate in midwifery in my village.”

As a participant in ChildFund’s youth project several years ago, SreyYorng learnt life and leadership skills. “The training was essential to me as it provided a foundation for my life,” she said. “It taught us how to manage ourselves, lead, be confident, and accomplish life goals,” she said.

SreyYorng said most of the youth who took part in the project had gone on to have successful careers as medical professionals, private sector employees, and business owners.

“We learnt lessons that helped us find a good path in life,” she said.

“The project has changed my life and the lives of many other young people. It taught us topics that were not able to learn in school or university.”

What is the history of World Youth Skills Day?

On the 15 July 2014, the United Nations General Assembly held its first World Youth Skills Day. This was to be a day celebrating the importance of giving young people the skills they will need for good employment, work, and entrepreneurship.

Ever since this day, World Youth Skills Day has continued to provide a one-of-a-kind, crucial opportunity for young people to communicate with technical and vocational education and training institutions, firms, employee and worker organisations, development partners, and policy makers.

This year, World Youth Skills Day 2023 will take place amid the continued efforts for socio-economic recovery from the global challenges we face. While the world continues to grapple with these challenges, as well as the aftermath of the pandemic, the resilience and determination of young people have paved the way for progress.

Young people connected with their peers, learnt life skills, and explored topics important to them at the 2023 Lao Children’s Forum, supported by ChildFund in Laos.

Why are the global goals for World Youth Skills day so important?

Did you know that the United Nations has 17 targets they aim to address by 2030? Known as the United Nations 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals, or the Global Goals, this global initiative aims to end poverty and help produce sustainable economic, social, and environmental development.

One of the Sustainable Development Goals is Goal 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Increasing access to affordable and high-quality Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) plays an important role during World Youth Skills Day. After all, TVET can promote economic, social, and environmental development by helping young people and adults attain the skills and training they need for good employment, work and entrepreneurship. It can ensure recognition for a youth’s skills, and even provide skill development opportunities for those who are under-employed, unemployed, or for youth not in education, employment or training.

In the face of challenges such as climate change, humanitarian emergencies, and conflicts, it is more critical than ever to empower all young people, irrespective of where they live, to speak up and continue learning so they can reach their full potential.

How can I support World Youth Skills Day 2023?

All young people should have access to the opportunities and training they need to excel in their work, especially our modern, constantly changing one. You can help by sending a donation to the areas it is most needed.

You can also donate monthly to ChildFund this World Youth Skills Day 2023. This way, your support will last long beyond World Youth Skills Day, helping more than 1,000 children in one year to obtain the support that they need to be as safe, healthy, and educated as possible.