war made 12 million children homeless in last deacde/BMJ FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Fri, 29 May 1998 09:14:11 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  Yahoo! News - Health Headlines - May 28, 1998
SOURCE: British Medical Journal 1998;316:1549-1550


NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Doctors should be helped to do more -- and do more
themselves -- to protect children in war zones and other areas of armed
conflict, write two physicians in the May 21st issue of the British Medical

In an editorial, Dr. David Southall, professor of pediatrics at North
Staffordshire Hospital Centre, Stoke-on-Trent, and Dr. Kamran Abbasi,
editorial registrar, of the British Medical Journal in London, note that in
1996, there were 34 armed conflicts around the world. More than two thirds
occurred in countries with child (under age 5) mortality rates of 5% or
more. Southall and Abbasi urge physicians in advantaged nations to develop
long-term links with colleagues in disadvantaged countries, and
to provide hands-on aid to affected children, along with educational
materials, medical equipment, and moral support.

Despite the 1990 passage by the U.N. of an international children's rights
law mandating that warring states or factions "shall take all feasible
measures to ensure protection and care of children affected by armed
conflict," Southall and Abbasi point out that in the last decade, 2 million
children have been killed in such conflicts.

Five percent of these deaths resulted from direct trauma and another 95%
from starvation or illness. Four to five million were injured, usually
without analgesia, anesthesia, or surgical facilities to treat them. Twelve
million children have been made homeless, over one million orphaned, and
countless psychologically traumatized, the doctors note.

Torture and sexual abuse of children are widespread. During the Rwandan
genocide, almost every girl over age 8 was raped. In addition, children are
frequently kidnapped or sold by impoverished families to armed factions and
are terrorized into committing atrocities, often against other children,
the authors say.

While they acknowledge that many doctors already participate in
international aid work, Southall and Abbasi recommend that all should argue
for "urgent international action to eliminate gross inequalities in
maternal and child mortality between advantaged and disadvantaged
countries," including an increase in aid budgets. They also advocate
development of a U.N. police force which "goes beyond peacekeeping and is
designed specifically to protect children."

SOURCE: British Medical Journal 1998;316:1549-1550.


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