Stop the War on Children, whatever it takes

When conflicts and wars erupt, the result is always the same – a war on children. It doesn’t matter where or why, children always pay the heaviest price.

Children are terrified, their sense of safety shattered. Many are forced from their homes. They struggle without basic food, water, and shelter. Their education is disrupted and their futures are put on hold.

Whatever the reason, wherever in the world, violence and trauma turns children’s lives upside down.

Eglantyne Jebb and her mission to stop the war on children

The founder of Save the Children, Eglantyne Jebb, understood that. In 1919, following the atrocities toward children in the First Word War, she created Save the Children with a vision to recognize and protect the rights of all children worldwide. Her views were far from mainstream at the time. But, slowly, she made the world see that children had rights. Her relentless advocacy eventually led to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, backed today by almost 200 countries.

Jebb also knew that children are particularly at risk during violent conflicts. She once said, “All wars, whether just or unjust, disastrous or victorious, are waged against the child.”

That statement, made a century ago, is as relevant today as it was back then- perhaps even more so. Save the Children leads in protecting children and their rights in conflict and war zones. We listen and respond to their greatest needs, advocate for their safety, and provide physical and mental health support.

To stop the violence against children, we must scale up our response

That vision is at the heart of our humanitarian response to every major crisis. It’s why we have our Children’s Emergency Fund with children at the very centre. Save the Children is always among the first humanitarian organizations to respond with lifesaving support for children and their families. We act quickly, whenever or wherever the needs are greatest. The Children’s Emergency Fund allows us to reach children rapidly – providing protection and safe spaces; essentials like clean water, food and health care; education; and much more.

In every conflict or crisis, the stories children share are horrific.

Like 16-year- old Omera*, from Afghanistan, who fled her home in Farah province with her family after a rocket from the war destroyed their home. “We suffered a lot and we had very bad days. The war was bad, and this has affected us in different ways. I don’t have the heart to say what has happened,” says Omera.

In all that we do, Save the Children adheres to basic humanitarian principles, derived from international humanitarian law. Action in a humanitarian crises, such as in Afghanistan, DRC, the occupied Palestinian territory, Syria, Sudan and Ukraine, is aimed at saving lives and alleviating suffering. To achieve that, we act with complete impartiality, while complementing any humanitarian support given by the states involved.

According to guidelines from the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR, “This means that humanitarian action is based solely on need, with priority given to the most urgent cases irrespective of race, nationality, gender, religious belief, political opinion or class.”

Our resources go where the needs are greatest. We remain neutral and independent of the political and military actors and their aims.

Save the Children always works in collaboration with partners and local actors. In times of crisis, what children and families require is for humanitarian organizations to have urgent, unrestricted access to enable a full-scale response to their growing needs. That includes distributing essential supplies such as food, water, and blankets.

For children, it also means setting up child-friendly spaces to allow them to play and recover. It means delivering mental health and psychosocial support services for children and caregivers. And it means ensuring children continue to have access to education – by creating temporary learning spaces and repairing damaged schools.

All this must be done without bias and with respect and dignity. Through all of our work, we stay true to the beliefs and vision of Eglantyne Jebb. We owe that to every child whose life is torn apart by conflict – we must stop the war on children regardless of who they are or where they live.