James Denselow, Head of the Conflict and Humanitarian at Save the Children UK said:
“This is a milestone achievement in recognising a trend in modern conflict that is having a devastating impact on the lives of children. It recognises the unique vulnerabilities children have to the weapons of modern war and their proximity to too many front lines. It could be a significant step forward in the push to stop the war on children”.
Save the Children is particularly pleased to see the Declaration make specific reference to the fact that “civilian populations, particularly children, are exposed to severe and long-lasting indirect effects - often referred to as reverberating effects”.
The text has been under negotiation since 2019 and endorsing States commit to “adopt and implement a range of policies and practices to help avoid civilian harm, including by restricting or refraining as appropriate from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, when their use may be expected to cause harm to civilians or civilian objects”.
As warzones increasingly become more urban, children are disproportionately affected. Some 50 million civilians are currently estimated to live in areas of urban conflict. Children remain in grave danger, especially from the threat of explosive weapons. Younger children injured in blasts are particularly at risk of death compared to adults and need to be treated differently. Children have weaker necks and torsos than adults, so less force is needed to cause a brain injury. In warzones, head injuries are common in young children, with patients under seven years old twice as likely to present a head injury than those over seven years.
Save the Children, in partnership with Imperial College London and medical experts, developed a comprehensive manual - the first of its kind - to support children injured in conflict. The manual helps medical teams in conflict zones, who are often forced to operate on and treat children in difficult circumstances with limited specialist training and resources in how to do so.
Save the Children is calling on all leaders to stop the war on children, and ensure all countries have strong national policies and practices in place with regard to the protection of civilians during armed conflict involving the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
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Notes to editors
• According to INEW, many states either expressed their intention to sign the political declaration when it is open for signature at a signing conference in Dublin or indicated that they are working towards this decision. These states include Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Spain, State of Palestine, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.