War and natural disaster result in millions of families and children being victims of unthinkable atrocities – like abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and soldier recruitment.
Save the Children works to ensure children are protected from involvement in armed forces, stay together with their families and are not subjected to exploitation and abuse.
Our goal is to make child protection a reality for all children.
Recruitment of children into armed groups
Tens of thousands of children are involved in armed groups in at least 30 countries. They are often forced to do tasks that adults refuse to do, like laying mines.
We believe the best protection is to prevent children from being recruited or abducted in the first place. We do this by supporting and strengthening communities and developing community protection systems, encouraging conflict resolution and improving the ability of families to support themselves financially.
Sexual violence against women and children is an increasingly common by-product of conflict and natural disaster. It can affect boys as well as girls and the effects are devastating. Survivors are vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies, psychological trauma and HIV/AIDS.
Save the Children focuses on strengthening systems to prevent sexual violence. For example, we advocate for food distribution systems to be structured in ways that get supplies direct to vulnerable children so they are not forced to engage in exploitative behaviour to survive.
When communities are displaced through war or natural disaster it’s easy for children to become separated from their families. Separated children are at an even greater risk of being exploited or abused.
Save the Children responds immediately when a crisis hits to ensure systems are in place to inform people how to stick together and to help track children, should they become separated. We also work with governments and other non-governmental organisations to strengthen tracking systems.
International law and policy
Nearly two-thirds of countries are party to the Optional Protocol of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. This Protocol states that 18 years old is the minimum age for compulsory military recruitment. It requires governments to take an active role in preventing people under 18 years of age from taking part in hostilities.
These overarching protective mechanisms help to guide governments and aid agencies. For example, under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court sexual violence is considered a war crime if committed as part of a widespread attack on a civilian population.