As a child, I thought that every other child in the world was born to be loved, protected and nurtured by family. The first embrace of a child in the protective arms of his mother, the steadfast hold of a father's hands and spiritual mooring of other family members all set a foundation for our path in this world.
Now imagine the life of a child in war. The devastating impacts of war on a child are unimaginable as war displaces families from their homes and challenges the very essence of existence. The physical and emotional security that a child needs from parents is lost in the constant struggle of parents in wartime. Children develop different coping strategies to overcome these situations.
Some children withdraw, some are traumatised for life and others rebel by accepting violence as the norm of life and discover the power of weapons to terrorise and subjugate the weak.
As conflicts continue to break out in different parts of the world, children and youth are increasingly being recruited as soldiers and suicide bombers. Over the last decade alone, armed conflict has claimed the lives of over two million children. Another six million have been left wounded or disabled for life. One million have become orphans. It is estimated today that more than 300,000 children have been enrolled in militia groups and armies. Half of those they kill are other children.
Exposure to war and conflict has severe psychological effects on children and families. War undermines the foundations of children’s lives, destroying their homes, splintering their communities and breaking down their trust in adults.
The plight of war-affected children has prompted the United Nations Security Council to introduce a working group on children and armed conflict with the goal of recommending methods of protecting children affected by armed conflicts. The Security Council bans and condemns the targeting of children in situations of armed conflict including killing and maiming, sexual violence, abduction and forced displacement, recruitment and use of children as combatants in armed conflict and attacks on places that usually have a significant presence of children such as schools.
The urgent need of the hour is the integration of war-affected children in society. Education plays a pivotal role as it is the biggest weapon to dispel the darkness and give hope for a better and brighter future.
My journey with Dubai Cares began in 2014. It has been an honour to join this great philanthropic organisation envisioned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to provide quality education for children in developing countries. I was privileged to be part of one of our key initiatives called “Rebuild Palestine. Start with Education” in 2015 aimed at supporting access to education and mitigating the psycho-social effects of armed conflict on the student population in Gaza.
The Dh11 million programme was launched to alleviate the devastating effects of the war on the education sector in Gaza by providing infrastructure and psychosocial support services to Palestinian children.
Dubai Cares, with the tremendous support of the UAE, has facilitated change and development by providing children access to quality education in developing countries around the globe since 2007. Dubai Cares now reaches more than 10 million children in 41 developing nations.
We hope that the more fortunate children will stretch that hand of steadiness to their less fortunate traumatised sibling sand help them integrate into the mainstream.
Our hope lies with the children who will carry the message of universal peace and brotherhood to the international community.