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‘International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression’ Reminds us to Protect the Most Vulnerable

International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression on June 4th serves as a solemn reminder of the pervasive violence and suffering faced by children in conflict zones worldwide. From the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Russia, Palestine and Israel, children are often the victims of physical, mental, and emotional atrocities that leave a devastating impact on their lives. 

In Ukraine, the war has left countless children traumatised, displaced, and at risk of exploitation, with over 2,000 children considered missing. In Gaza, children face severe psychological strain, with many suffering amputations and one in three malnourished​. In 2022 alone, over 8,630 children were killed or maimed, 7,622 children were recruited or used in armed conflicts, and 3,985 were abducted. These staggering numbers highlight the urgent need for international efforts to protect children in conflict zones. 

Inequality in Children’s Rights

Not all children have the same rights or access to safety and education. Factors such as sex, disability, ethnicity, and geopolitical location heavily influence a child’s risk of exposure to violence​​. For instance, girls are disproportionately more at risk of experiencing sexual violence in conflict zones and forced marriages, while boys are often recruited as child soldiers. Children with disabilities are at greater risk of experiencing violence and exploitation.

Mental health is another critical area where disparities are evident, with a lack of research studies in West and Central Africa. The losses and adverse environments experienced by children in Gaza have resulted in diminished hope and an inability to imagine a future without war. At a time when mental health problems are on the rise, support services are critical. In crises and emergencies, child helplines are pivotal in supporting children and often act as frontline responders, offering psychological and legal support, reuniting families, and advocating for children’s rights. On International Child Helpline Day and International Missing Children’s Day, both occurring during the month of May, we reflect on the importance of cross-cultural cooperation and transdisciplinary teams to prevent and protect children from abuse or disappearance.

The Role of Research and Evidence-Based Practices

Continuous research ensures that interventions are effective and adapt to the changing needs of children in conflict zones, identifying gaps in child protection systems and emergency responses. Research focusing on social and behavioural change has explored approaches to mitigate violence against children, in low and middle-income countries, thereby increasing the possibility of keeping children in schools. Global strategies to end aggression against children stress the need for comprehensive data collection and analysis to generate meaningful insights that inform laws, policies, and societal attitudes. Research also allows for a consistent update on services, including hotlines, to ensure increased accessibility and implementation of evidence-based practices. 

Moreover, it’s imperative to keep current with new ways of child exploitation and violence and thereby confront them with innovative solutions. For instance, artificial intelligence tools have been developed to help detect and notify users of potential online grooming. May 17 2024, has seen the adoption of the world’s first international AI treaty, which aims to safeguard human rights in AI systems and has specifically recognised children’s rights and unique needs. However, technology plays a dual role in child rights and protection. Although digital solutions and AI innovations can enhance support services, the AI treaty failed to enforce corporate responsibility, highlighting the limitations of technology alone in ensuring child rights. This emphasises the critical role of continued research, advocacy, and evidence-based practices in developing effective solutions that protect children’s rights globally.

The International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression calls for a united effort to protect the most vulnerable. As we observe this day, let us advocate for stronger protections, support systems, and policies that prioritise children’s well-being. Research, technology, and international cooperation, are key to work towards a future where all children, regardless of their circumstances, can live free from violence and exploitation.

Lorleen Farrugia

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A1 Research is a company headquartered in Malta with reach in the UK and EU through a nework of Associated Consultants
OUR LOCATIONSWhere to find us?
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GET IN TOUCHA1 Research on Linkedin
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