Dr Sohail Nasti
While wars and conflict situations victimize people of all ages, it is children who are more vulnerable in such kind of situations. According to UNICEF estimates, in the last one decade, two million children were killed, 405 million disabled, 12 million left homeless, more than one million orphaned or separated from their parents, and 10 million psychologically traumatized across the world due to the wars and conflicts.
Kashmir, hit by one of the worst conflicts in the past three decades or so, is no different. Here, the conflict has not only left hundreds of children dead, injured and thousands orphaned, but the alarming increase in the psychiatric morbidity in general, is among the worst possible forms of suffering. Exposure to traumatic events can result in mental, behavioral and emotional problems in children and adolescents. However, unfortunately, the impact of the ongoing conflict on the children in Kashmir, has received little or no attention so far. While the parents want to have a safe and secure atmosphere for their children so that they may nurture and flourish, unfortunately, what they have to negotiate with, in Kashmir is well known to all. The children in the Valley have already lost their childhood to the turmoil and violence.
The importance of human resource development among the students in Kashmir who, I believe, are the architects of our future, have received no or little attention, by the stakeholders so far. Whatever the end result of this conflict is, the future development, in all dimensions, must be worked upon through this asset of the youth so that they craft the society towards development and progression in the future to come. Through my charity, Mother Helpage, I started visiting the universities, schools, colleges, communities to explain the importance of education and role of human resource development for a stable and a safe.
Again, I would like to stress that we need to work towards making our communities resilient by helping our youth develop through education, cultural upliftment and sports. It is because resilience is the human capacity to face, overcome and be strengthened by or even transformed by the adversities of life. Everyone faces adversity and no one is exempt. With resilience, children can triumph over trauma and without it trauma triumphs.
Protecting and caring for children is a shared responsibility of all stake holders and it starts with parents, involves communities and governments. The rights of children and their aspirations are of paramount importance towards an inclusive and equitable society. The children have the right to equality of opportunity, dignity and care, protection and rehabilitation by the society with both hands open to bring them into the mainstream of social life.
The psychosocial impact of conflict on the children is huge. Children caught in a war show increased signs of anxiety and may have nightmares and trouble sleeping. Older children may become anxious, feeling hopeless about their future, developing aggressive behavior.
According to UNICEF reports, more than 25 million children between 6 and 15 years of age, or 22 per cent of children in that age group, are missing out on school in conflict zones across 22 countries. We may add children of Kashmir in that list too, who do not have access to an uninterrupted school year. For the sake of children, who live in conflict zones, we must design interventions like making provisions for catch-up education, creating informal learning opportunities, training teachers and rehabilitating and refurbishing schools at the earliest. This must be done till we reach a long-term solution. Conflict takes away many things but it must not be allowed to snuff out knowledge too.
It is also important that a review of the conflict is undertaken and the conflict resolved. The alternative is too bleak to countenance: if sufficient care is not taken for the proper guidance and development of the children, the day is not far, when a tsunami will engulf us all.
—The author is founder of Mother Helpage Worldwide, an NGO. He can be reached at: [email protected]