Disability and Armed Conflict: episode 2

East Aleppo City, Syria: eight-year-old paralysed by an exploding bomb lost the use of her legs East Aleppo City, Syria: eight-year-old paralysed by an exploding bomb lost the use of her legs © UNICEF/Khudr Al-Issa

In Focus by Barbara Caltabiano

Deteriorating services, increasing need and deepening poverty are some of the main threats that children with disabilities face when living in conflict zones, making it hard for them to escape the war vicious cycle. In more detail, government disinvestment in health, education and other social services polarizes societies and pushes them towards conflict. With ongoing war, health care and other services are more likely to be deteriorated. Armed conflict prevents children, and in particular those with disabilities, to fully enjoy their rights, such as the one to access these services.

The second episode of “Disability and Armed Conflict” outlines how children with disabilities are caught in the vicious cycle of violence, social polarization, deteriorating services and deepening poverty. In addition, it takes into consideration the six grave violations that children, especially those with disabilities, face when living in the shadow of armed conflict and how the United Nations system has tried to evaluate their impact on them.

First and foremost, children with disabilities face barriers to accessing education in emergency settings. According to a 2018 study of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, among children 13 years of age and above, refugees with disabilities were more likely to be illiterate and to have never been enrolled in school. In a 2018 report by Syria Relief, four out of five children living with disabilities in Syria were reported not having access to education.

Increased isolation and discrimination are two of the main consequences that children with disabilities face in conflict settings. Recent conflicts have shown that families or caregivers overwhelmed by the costs of the war are more prone to abandon children and adults with disabilities. Thus, coping with disabilities becomes extremely harder when supporting networks are disrupted, as conflict undermines solidarity and empathy.

Furthermore, health access is particularly at stake in conflict scenarios. Indeed, conflict increases children with disabilities’ risks of acquiring new secondary conditions due to untreated chronic diseases. In addition, health facilities in conflict zones struggle with mitigating the impact of complications in childbirth, resulting in parental complications due to physical distress, maternal starvation and malnutrition, which further increase the risk of permanent fetal damage and miscarriage. Depression is a further secondary condition that could be aggravated during conflict, resulting in frequent or permanent signs of psychological distress.

In conclusion, the UN Security Council has identified six grave violations affecting children in situation of armed conflict, which include killing and maiming, recruitment and use of children, rape or other sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access. In the scope of the present article, children with disabilities are impacted by all six violations. To monitor these violations, the Security Council has established the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) on grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict, implemented by Country Task forces (CTFMRs). In 2017 alone, CTFMRs verified more than 21,000 violations against children. Unfortunately, MRM does not document the number of children who acquire disabilities during armed conflict, but it is very likely that a vast majority of the children’s injuries are likely to lead to disabilities. Indeed, the Secretary-General’s 2015 report on children and armed conflict indicated that about 3,000 of over 9,000 injuries verified through the mechanism occurred in the State of Palestine and approximately 1,000 of those were likely to lead to disabilities.

 

To know more, please read:

https://www.unicef.org/disabilities/files/Children_with_Disabilities_in_Situations_of_Armed_Conflict-Discussion_Paper.pdf https://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/s_2015_409.pdf

https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/hidden-victims-syrian-crisis-disabled-injured-and-older-refugees

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