Children exposed to war


Psychologically damaged for life, unless rescued

By taking into consideration various derivatives that influence children’s mental health, the psychological disorder that has been observed during a war is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that children face due to recurrence of war, or similar uncertain conditions such as incidents of terrorism and natural disasters. On the basis of scientific observations and review of literature, there is a correlation between war/terrorism and their effects on the mental conditions suffered by children.

War and terrorism is differentiated by their level of intensity and persistence. For the convenience of readers to understand why different levels of mental disorders occur in children as a result of different types of conflicts, it is important to understand that war according to Will Durant’s book, History of Civilization (1968), has remained constant throughout history, and is inevitable. Because of conflict’s recurrent nature, the children stand most vulnerable and exposed to the tragic effects of war. The historical perspective observed the recorded trends of children’s exposure to wars, and found their commonality with the current trends in behaviour of war-children. The disorder was observed from demographical perspective by comparing the level of PTSD between children living in war/conflict zones and children, living in areas of high incidents of terrorism. By assessing long term effects of such exposure, it is argued that even when the war has ended, the secondary influences prolong the effects of war in children. In observing children growing up under conditions of orphanhood, malnourishment, living as refugees, lack of proper care, it has been found from statistical data that these children often exhibit severe symptoms of post traumatic stress for a very long time, and sometimes throughout their lifetimes. Evidence has also been found of neurological effects in war-children that include disorders such as aggressive control problems, anxiety, and sometimes early death. It is argued that there is a positive correlation between post traumatic stress and depressive symptoms.

By being critical of the impacts of war and conflict on the health of children, the arbitrary actions undertaken by the Security Council, which frequently imposes sanctions on countries of conflict, indirectly affects the refugee children in need of assistance. Further, the media is also to be blamed for creating an atmosphere of panic and trauma for public during incidents of terrorism, as a result of which children too are instilled with the same fear like an adult.

Much focus is required on other dimensions that can elaborate more on the vulnerability the children face during war and what preventive measures can be taken to protect them, or safeguard them from their exploitation. Though there has been some identified protective factors that can help a child to recognise and avoid dangers and his/her ability to use adults as a caretaker etc, there has not been any suggestion on logistical probability of incorporating these measures as a child’s defensive mechanism. In my opinion, a child is bound to suffer more from fear if such measures are inculcated in them. However, at the same time such fear will persist if no action is taken to underscore its negative influences.

Same is true for the children in the war torn areas of Pakistan, yet not much psychological importance is given to them. Another dimension faced by children is the child recruitment by the militant outfits who train them and brainwash their minds at their early formative stages. These children are fed with hate literature and are inculcated with a sense of revenge by feeding them with lies that make suicide attacks seem justified for these youngsters. If we care to notice, most of the bodies recovered of the suicide bombers were very young; they were either in their teens or early twenties. This is an aspect that has been deeply neglected by the state to deal with such seminaries, especially in the tribal areas that are used to recruit young children, either by giving incentives to their poor parents or by threatening them with their lives for not sending their children to them.

Some children who had been recruited by the terrorist outfits have been rescued by the army. Experiments were undertaken to de-radicalise the negative brainwashing that these children have been fed with, but no result has been declared whether such de-radicalising camps have been successful and these children, who were trained to be suicide bombers, have been rehabilitated in the society.

Other children who face psychological problems and are prone to mental shocks are those who have been affected by terrorist activities and military actions. These are the children who have lost their loved ones, guardians or lost their limbs in combats in which they have been caught. This shock to children lingers throughout their lives and affects them in their routine. Proper therapeutic treatment is much needed for these children to save their future and help them cope with life. Pakistan is going through its most unusual phase as it has been chaotically divided into various ideologies that are violent and hegemonic in nature. Growth of children under such circumstances results in their adverse reflections in minds that is witnessed in their behaviour in their education, creativity and recreation.


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