|Outreach No. 97 - Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances - Part 2: Children Affected by Catastrophes (New York University - TVE - UNEP - WWF, 70 p.)|
The Convention on the Rights of the Child seeks to outlaw the use of children in war and to promote the idea of children as 'zones of peace' in order to protect their chances to grow normally in mind and body.
A beginning had already been made. In 1969, during the civil war in Nigeria, UNICEF was able to negotiate the delivery of relief supplies to children on both sides of the conflict. In the early 1980s, in El Salvador, Lebanon and the Sudan, short-term cease-fires were negotiated with warring parties so that food and medical supplies could be delivered and children could be immunised.
In El Salvador, three days each year since 1985 were declared 'days of tranquility', during which time the civil war was interrupted so that UNICEF-trained volunteers and even soldiers and guerrillas could vaccinate children against the main child-killer diseases. In each case, leaders on both sides recognised that there could be no victory if the healthy development of the nation's principal human resource - its children - was stunted by malnutrition and disease.
In 1992, UNICEF negotiated with the leaders of all parties in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia to observe a 'week of tranquility' from 1st November to 7th November to enable enough food and warm clothing to reach as many children as possible before the onset of winter. It was estimated that up to 600,000 children benefitted from the programme that began with this week of tranquility.
The hope of these 'zones of peace', of course, is that agreement on joint action in support of children, even during temporary cease-fires, builds greater awareness among combatants of the need to protect the civilian population once the fighting resumes, and of the possibility of constructive collaboration even in the most polarised situations.