IMPACT

Nearly 87 Million Children Have Known Nothing But Conflict: UN

In addition to enduring physical and emotional pain, these kids are at risk for impaired brain development.
ODESSA, UKRAINE - MAY 05: Children learn the Ukrainian language in the youth center of Odessa on May 05, 2015 in Odessa, Ukra
ODESSA, UKRAINE - MAY 05: Children learn the Ukrainian language in the youth center of Odessa on May 05, 2015 in Odessa, Ukraine. A portrait of Ukrainian writer Taras Shevchenko hangs on the wall. Children aged from 8 to 16 with a social background from all over Ukraine spend three weeks in the youth center of Odessa. Children from the war zone in eastern Ukraine travelled by bus to Kharkiv and by train to Odessa. The traumatized children get psychological and medical care. The center was build in 1923 by the former Soviet Union. The Ukrainian government kept the Soviet center running by sending 700 children to the youth center every three weeks over the years. The children have to study history and the Ukrainian language during their stay. Also many physical activities are planned. (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Nearly 87 million children around the world under seven years of age have been growing up in conflict zones, in conditions that can hinder the development of their brains, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday.

Exposure to extreme trauma may hinder the development of brain cell connections, essential for health, emotional wellbeing and ability to learn, UNICEF said.

"In addition to the immediate physical threats that children in crises face, they are also at risk of deep-rooted emotional scars," Pia Britto, UNICEF chief of early child development, said in a statement.

"Conflict robs children of their safety, family and friends, play and routine.

Syrian children wait to return to their country at the Turkish border crossing with Syria in the outskirts of Kilis, southeas
Syrian children wait to return to their country at the Turkish border crossing with Syria in the outskirts of Kilis, southeastern Turkey, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive around the Syrian city of Aleppo has sent tens of thousands of people fleeing to the Turkish border in recent days. Turkey, already home to 2.5 million Syrian refugees, is also providing assistance to the new refugees on the Syrian side of the border, but refuses so far to let them in.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

"Yet these are all elements of childhood that give children the best possible chance of developing fully and learning effectively, enabling them to contribute to their economies and societies, and building strong and safe communities when they reach adulthood."

A child is born with 253 million functioning brain cells called neurons, which have the potential to develop rapidly during the first seven years of life before reaching full adult capacity of around one billion neurons, UNICEF said.

This, however, largely depends on early childhood development such as breastfeeding, learning opportunities and a chance to grow up in a safe environment, it said.

Extreme trauma puts children at risk of living in a state of toxic stress inhibiting brain cell connections, with lifelong consequences to their cognitive, social and physical development, UNICEF said.

(Reporting by Magdalena Mis, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

 

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