More than a decade after it was presented to the United Nations General Assembly, Graça Machel’s report on the agony of children trapped in armed conflict remains the definitive assessment of the issue. It has continuously roused moral outrage and has been a foundation for programming and advocacy.
The changing nature of contemporary armed conflict cries out for a different approach, one that no longer focuses on particular countries or themes but on the totality of issues affecting children caught in armed conflict, a point captured in Mrs. Machel’s study. That is the central message of this 10-year strategic review, and it grows out of Mrs. Machel’s powerful insight that “war violates every right of the child.” We cannot hope to move forcefully on behalf of children in conflict until we turn our attention to all impacts, on all children, in all situations affected by conflict. The organization of this report aims to heighten our understanding of the myriad ways in which armed conflict affects children – and how children regard their participation not only in war but in programmes aimed at preventing violence against them and in promoting their recovery and reintegration.
Save the Children, in collaboration with researchers from the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), 2019
The protection of children in conflict – and with it the realisation of the promises made in the declarations, conventions and statutes of the 20th century – is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century. The nature of conflict – and its impact on children – is evolving.
In today’s armed conflicts, there is often no longer a clearly demarcated battlefield: children’s homes and schools are the battlefield.
Increasingly, the brunt of armed violence and warfare is being borne by children. Children suffer in conflict in different ways to adults, partly because they are physically weaker and also because they have so much at stake – their physical, mental and psychosocial development are heavily dependent on the conditions they experience as children. Conflict affects children differently depending on a number of personal characteristics – significantly gender and age, but also disability status, ethnicity, religion and whether they live in rural or urban locations. The harm that is done to children in armed conflict is not only often more severe than that done to adults, it has longer lasting implications – for children themselves and for their societies
armed conflict child soldiers children grave violations against children human rights impunity internally displaced persons mental health sexual violence Afghanistan Central African Republic Democratic Republic of Congo Global Iraq Mali Nigeria Somalia South Sudan Syria Yemen
International Rescue Committee, 2008
The goal of this multimedia educational program is to improve clinical care for and general treatment
of sexual assault survivors by providing medical instruction and encouraging competent, compassionate,
The program is intended for both clinical care providers and non-clinician health facility staff. It is
designed to be delivered in a group setting with facilitators guiding participants through the material and
directing discussions and group participation as appropriate. It is divided into five sections:
1. What Every Clinic Worker Needs to Know
2. Responsibilities of Non-Medical Staff
3. Direct Patient Care
4. Preparing Your Clinic
5. Forensic Examination
World Health Organization (WHO), 2012
This WHO report shares detailed accounts from 10 diverse emergency-affected areas, each of which built better-quality and more sustainable mental health systems despite challenging circumstances. Cases originate from countries small to large; low to middle-income; across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East; and affected by large-scale natural disasters, prolonged conflict, and large-scale influxes of refugees. While their contexts varied considerably, all were able to convert short-term interest in population mental health into sustainable, long-term improvements.
This WHO report goes beyond aspirational recommendations by providing detailed descriptions of how mental health reform was accomplished in these situations. Importantly, case contributors report not only their major achievements, but also their most difficult challenges and how they were overcome. Key overlapping practices emerging from these experiences are also summarized.
This report provides the proof of concept that it is possible to build back better, no matter how weak the existing mental health system or how challenging the emergency situation. I call upon all readers to take steps to ensure that those faced with future emergencies do not miss the important opportunity for mental health reform and development.
– Dr Margaret Chan, former Director-General WHO
Executive summary available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish here.
The Lancet Global Health, 2020
The Lancet Global Health‘s Nina Putnis speaks to Wietse Tol about his research on reducing psychological distress in female South Sudanese refugees, and the implications of this research for refugees and displaced people worldwide. Listen to the podcast below:
Save the children International, 2020
The third report of Save the Children’s Stop the War on Children campaign reveals shocking trends in the threats to the safety and wellbeing of children living in areas impacted by conflict. While fewer children are living in conflict-affected areas, those who do face the greatest risk of falling victim to serious violence since systematic records began. This report delves into the differences between boys’ and girls’ experiences through a gendered analysis of the six grave violations of children in conflict.
Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies: Guide to Developing a Field-Level Road Map
Women's Refugee Commission, Gender-Based Violence Area of Responsibility, UNFPA, 2019
The toolkit is designed for field-based colleagues interested in developing a Call to Action Road Map for their setting. Initially, the primary users will likely be Call to Action Advisors engaged to support the project and field-based colleagues from the global Call to Action partnership. As the project takes hold, the toolkit will be a useful guide for national and local Call to Action stakeholders. Call to Action global focal points can also use it as a resource to increase their support for field-based efforts and strengthen action and accountability under the Call to Action.
The toolkit is a step-by-step guide that walks the reader through the process of developing a fieldlevel Road Map. It includes resources for the drafting process and for implementation. We hope colleagues in other settings will also take up this effort. Partners should consider this toolkit a living document that can be updated to capture good practices as we continue to learn from one another.
World Health Organization (WHO), 2010
This report presents compelling evidence that people with mental health conditions meet major criteria for vulnerability. The report also describes how vulnerability can lead to poor mental health, and how mental health conditions are widespread yet largely unaddressed among groups identified as vulnerable. It argues that mental health should be included in sectoral and broader development strategies and plans, and that development stakeholders have important roles to play in ensuring that people with mental health conditions are recognized as a vulnerable group and are not excluded from development opportunities. The rec
PROBLEM MANAGEMENT PLUS (PM+): Individual psychological help for adults impaired by distress in communities exposed to adversity
World Health Organization, 2016
With this manual, the World Health Organization (WHO) is responding to requests from colleagues around the world who seek guidance on psychological interventions for people exposed to adversity.
The manual describes a scalable psychological intervention called Problem Management Plus (PM+) for adults impaired by distress in communities who are exposed to adversity. Aspects of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) have been changed to make them feasible in communities that do not have many specialists. To ensure maximum use, the intervention is developed in such a way that it can help people with depression, anxiety and stress, whether or not exposure to adversity has caused these problems. It can be applied to improve aspects of mental health and psychosocial well-being no matter how severe people’s problems are.
The manual can be downloaded for free in 13 different languages here.
Mental health conditions in conflict situations are much more widespread than we thought: But there’s a lot we can do to support people
Dr Mark van Ommeren, WHO, 2019
“Today, there is no shortage of countries in conflict. UN estimates suggest that in 2019, nearly 132 million people in 42 countries around the world will need humanitarian assistance resulting from conflict or disaster. Nearly 69 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced by violence and conflict, the highest number since World War II.
Fortunately, there’s a lot we can do to help them. Indeed, there’s a lot we are doing.
In 2019 WHO is addressing mental health in countries and territories with populations affected by large-scale emergencies across the world, in Bangladesh, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine and the West Bank and Gaza Strip, among others.
In many countries in the world, ignorance about mental health and mental illness remains widespread. The uptake of mental health care during conflict and other emergencies, in countries where such support has been limited, can lead to the identification of people who are tied up, locked in cages, hidden from society. In many cases, it is this very support that helps dispel myths about mental illness and leads to treatment and care and a path towards a more dignified life.
We have also learned that, when the political will exists, emergencies can be catalysts for building quality mental health services”, Dr Mark van Ommeren, WHO