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Yesika Sorto Andino
Instructor: Malcolm Campbell
UWRT 1103
07 November 16

Children During Wartime: The Fight to Survive


How many times have we seen videos or photos of children in times of war or conflict?
We often see the manner in which these children were physically affected by the brutal war
tactics or the poverty that pervades their home, but the photo and videos do not show the
psychological effects that encompasses a childs life because of the war and conflict prevalent in
their home. When children are in areas that are ridden with conflict and that are not stable
enough to support these children, then the children are exploited and they fall into a cycle of
conflict. In the media, we have been exposed to the Syrian conflict and how the amount of
refugees fleeing the conflict has drastically increased throughout the years, especially the amount
of children fleeing the conflict. We have been exposed to the Central American conflict due to
the amount of children entering the United States unaccompanied. We do know that the amount
of children affected in Syria is enormous, and the war and state-sanctioned terrorism has caused
many of these children to become displaced and psychologically traumatized. In Central
America, the rise of gang violence and poverty pervades the region. This has affected many
children in the region, and in turn, has caused them to be psychologically traumatized. Now the
question that permeates the world is what impact does this leave on a childs wellbeing? Yes,
there are physical aspects that affect these children, but there is also a substantial amount of
psychological ways a child responds to conflict and war in their home.

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According to a United Nations report, about ten thousand children have been killed and
three million have become displaced as a result of the Syrian conflict. This is a sad reality for
many children not only in Syria but in other parts of the world as well. In Syria, many children
are abused by the government and the opposition as well. The government places children in
detention centers, and according to the same U.N. report, children are tortured by being beat with
metal cables, electric shocks, being denied the right to sleep, and being sexually assaulted. The
opposition or rebel forces have recruited children to fight in the war and have also kidnapped
children in exchange for a ransom. It is important to note this fact because many children who
face these situations are vulnerable to being traumatized. When we were children, we had the
comfort of living in a safe environment, without the fear of our home being destroyed by bombs
or the fear of being kidnapped and taken away from your family. Many of these children have to
endure these situations and one of the responses that arises is psychological trauma.
In Central America, there is a substantial amount of gang violence and poverty that
affects children negatively. According to the American Immigration Council, El Salvador,
Honduras and Guatemala are the three countries in Central America that are plagued with a
substantial amount of violence. In 2011, Hondurass homicide rate increased to 91.6 murders per
100,000 people, and it has been formally recognized as the homicide capital of the world.
Children are not excluded from the mass murders, especially those that arise from gang violence.
Children are also negatively affected by their inability to be well-nourished. According to the
World Food Programme, about 49.8% of children in Guatemala are not receiving the correct
amount of nutrients or enough food to survive. This is linked to the poverty level and is also
prevalent in other Central American countries such as Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.
Gang violence is the central factor for the rising amount of child victims. According to a report

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by Human Rights Watch, 400 children under the age of eighteen were killed at the beginning of
2014 in Honduras, and most homicides stemmed from gangs. Children are not safe from the
conflict that has arisen in this part of the world, nor in Syria. Children are attacked by gang
members in Central America, but they also witness family members being killed through violent
means. This traumatizes a childs brain and without the ability to cope with the traumatic
situation, they are forced to cope with the event on their own. Many of these children do not
receive proper medical/psychological assistance. And even when they do arrive to a new place
that will provide them with refuge, the amount of suffering that the children have had to endure
is substantial enough that limits their ability to fully recover from their experiences. Like stated
above, many of these children are also malnourished, and this is true in both Central America and
Syria. Malnourishment is a physical aspect to what conflict and war can do to a child, but it can
also be directed to a psychological standpoint. If a child, especially a child that is developing and
growing and who needs that nutritional support to develop fully, is not receiving the support it
needs nourishment wise, then it hinders their ability to be psychologically stable.
The effects that are caused by the various situations children are put in in these two
conflict zones of the world are substantial. They range from being physical, emotional, or it
creates an entire journey a journey that encompasses a child entering a new country seeking
refuge. An effect that plagues many children in Syria and Central America is Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder or PTSD. Children in times of conflict are exposed to warfare, murder, and the
forms of torture children have to endure in these parts of the world can all lead to PTSD. In a
study done in the Islahiye camp reported by the Migration Policy Institute, 45 percent of child
refugees displayed signs of PTSD. Children respond in different ways usually because they are
not old enough to fully understand what is occurring in their home country. A report from the

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World Vision International examined that one of the physical consequences of warfare or conflict
that leads to a psychological response is the impairment of a childs brain development. Conflict
such as war or gang violence can lead to a childs inability to fully develop their learning and
social abilities as well as the ability to cope with stress and varying emotions. Children are prone
to changes in their behavior because of their exposure to violence. The Biomed Central spoke
about the symptoms Central American children had to endure, such as bedwetting, nightmares,
and aggressiveness, which was due to psychological trauma.
According to the Association of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, there are short term
and long term psychological responses to conflict and war. The short term responses that were
analyzed demonstrated that anxiety, sleep problems, loss of appetite were common among
children. The long term effects that are similar to those of adults included impairment of
developmental skills, flashbacks of traumatic events, and anxiety. An important observation that
arose from NPRs article called Aid Workers: Syrian Refugees Unable to Help Their Kids
Cope was the manner in which children were taught how to cope. In the observation, you can
decipher that these children are undergoing PTSD. When children were asked to draw as a form
of therapy, they would draw the reality of their experiences, such as children being killed,
bombs, and visuals of war. As these children try to cope with the different situations they were
put in, they have to undergo a substantial amount of aid to better their mental health. The
problem with this is that many of these children are placed in areas that may not have a lot of
funding or aid workers to help them cope with their new environment and the situation they had
to endure.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is
one of the most common things that arises after war, especially among children who have had to

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endure the war. Depression and PTSD become even more apparent as time goes on because the
refugee children do not have an adult figure to help them cope with the situation. Since these
children are entering countries that do not have enough funding, they are not able to receive the
full education and psychological help that is needed for them to fully cope with the situations
they were put in. The report from the Migration Policy Institute ties in education to the mental
health of refugee children. As refugee children are isolated from educational resources, their
chances of feeling marginalized increases. If these children do not feel that they have a place in a
place they are seeking refuge, they are vulnerable to psychological ailments. Child refugees in
refugee camps are usually not allocated the resources needed to help them undergo a smoother
transition into their new lives. A Stressful Life Events Questionnaire was used to observe these
children and it listed traumatic experiences that could have happened to these children and it
evaluated how these children were coping with the trauma. Many of these children that came
from war stricken countries like Syria or Central America were more likely to have depression or
PTSD.
A childs learning abilities, ability to socially interact, and their ability to control
emotions can be drastically affected by conflict. Once again, this has an effect on a child
psychologically because if they cannot interact with others, then their psychological well-being
is altered. The World Vision International stated that the structure of the brain is a physical
component, but it is also important to examine this because it relates back to the psychological
manner in which children respond. As these children undergo very difficult, strenuous situations
in their native countries and once they reach that point when they are trying to forget what
occurred to them, they are altering their daily activities. Their brain anatomy is being altered due
to the conflict they had to endure, according to World Vision International. The brain is a

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mechanism that is used to respond to the various situations one is presented with, and these
children are often altering their structure of their brain by their constant anxiety and depression.
Without proper care, they are even more vulnerable of being impacted psychologically.
Children around the world are being affected negatively by war and conflict. Children in
Syria and Central America, who are both undergoing similar yet different situations are
vulnerable to the traumatizing events. As these children experience horrific events and witness
people being killed and witness how people take advantage of them, they are more vulnerable to
psychological ailments. As these children partake on a journey to a new place, a place where they
can be safe, they are even more vulnerable to being traumatized. They are not given the proper
resources to cope with their surroundings, and many times, they are marginalized. These children
deserve a place to feel safe and secure so they can fully transform their lives for the better.