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How are global conflict zones, like Ukraine, affecting child health, education and well-being?

POSTED February 21, 2023

How are global conflict zones, like Ukraine, affecting child health, education and well-being?

One year after the Ukraine war began, our CEO reflects on the growing number of conflict zones and how they’re impacting kids’ futures

By Fred Witteveen, CEO,

David is one of 450-children who lives in a conflict zone. He lives in Ukraine.

“During the day there is no electricity for 15 hours, it is dark and cold. It has become almost impossible for us to attend school online,” confides David, 11, who was forced from his home in Ukraine.

David’s story is all too familiar as the devastating Ukraine war enters its second year on Feb. 24.

There has been a terrible toll, particularly on children: more than 14 million have been forced from their homes. Thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed and, according to UNICEF, the education of more than five-million children has been disrupted.

Winter weather creates additional threats for displaced families, with warm clothing, blankets and other needs in short supply.

However, the Ukraine war is a highly publicized example of a much larger, global crisis of children living in conflict zones.

Indeed, about 450-million children worldwide ⁠— or one in six ⁠— live in conflict-affected areas. War puts children at risk of violence and exploitation, limits their access to education and impacts their futures. Children living in conflict not only face the immediate threat of violence but also serious human-rights violations like child marriage and child labour.

That is why my organization, Children Believe, recognizes that child protection and education programs go hand in hand. Education enables children to develop to their full potential, and child protection ensures they are protected from abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence.

It makes me think of Efrata, displaced from her parents, who lost two brothers in the conflict in Ethiopia. She has received academic and psychosocial support from Children Believe and has re-enrolled in Grade 8.

And, I also think of Mounia, one of 1.7-million people who have been forced from their homes in Burkina Faso. Mounia was referred to us following a physical and sexual assault during the attack on her village. After getting educational and psychosocial support, she has re-enrolled in Grade 11.

Whether it is David in Ukraine, or Efrata in Ethiopia or Mounia in Burkina Faso, all children have the right to be protected and to a safe, inclusive quality education so that they can dream fearlessly.

To mark the Ukraine anniversary, we’re encouraging Canadians to sign and share Children Believe’s petition alongside other organizations to call upon the Government of Canada to increase international development aid towards education.

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Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.

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