UNICEF Day is a chance for kids, parents and teachers to learn more about the places which are stricken by poverty, disease or any war battles around the world and its impact on the children in their health as well as education.
Over the last few decades, there has been a rise in armed conflict across the world with many of these conflicts occurring towards the end of twentieth century. There were 59 major conflicts in different parts of the world during 1990 to 2003 (UNICEF ). Most of these conflicts emerged within the nations between communities and groups divided along ethnic, religious or cultural lines . After world war-II, there has also been a paradigm shift from conflicts between nations to conflicts arising within the nations itself (UNICEF ). As a result of the changing patterns of conflict, new and severe concerns have emerged confronting a large section of society. The means used to fight these wars are lethal and cause widespread damage. These conflicts have resulted into a huge loss of lives along with a massive loss of resources and infrastructure. In fact, there are both direct and indirect consequences of these conflicts on the people.
In the context of Kashmir which has seen armed conflict since 1989, children have faced diverse issues and have been affected on almost all aspects of their development –survival, education, health, protection, etc. There has been an increase in orphan hood, child labour, many children have dropped out of school, an increase of mental health issues, many face maltreatment, and some are injured and tortured. There has also been deterioration in the socio-economic conditions of people, creating additional challenges for children. In spite of some of the programmers run by the Government and non-government organizations, tens of thousands of orphans in the Valley are reported to be living an unhappy life because of the fear, depression, destitution, negligence and discrimination. There has been an increase in child labour in the state and especially among the orphans who are trapped into the vicious cycle of poverty. But there is no study available that have looked into the pathways of how and why children drop out of schools and engage in labour irrespective of the free education in the state, mid day meals and with provisions of scholarship to the poor children.
Thousands of orphan children who belonged to deceased militants are ignored, neglected and discriminated because the state policies do not provide for any assistance to orphan children and widows of militants, as against the spirit of UNCRC. More recently there has been a shift in the state policy in recognizing the needs of all the children including of militants equally and extending some of the entitlements to them . But that needs to be explored whether the provisions have translated into reality. The data has also indicated that the overall access of children to education was highly affected by the conflict and due to the deterioration of socioeconomic conditions, it becomes imperative to investigate such relations on the ground and analyze the process and factors that have led to such an outcome.
On the other hand, the literature and OPD records have shown that conflict and related trauma have deteriorated mental health of people in Kashmir to a greater extent. However, the research on the mental health of children has remained limited in the context of Kashmir. The relationship of mental health issues with economic conditions, education and other socio-demographic variables, are important to look at. Further, it is important to explore the linkages of trauma/conflict and mental illness among children. The Government has taken some initiatives to enable families affected by conflicts to cope with distress and also to help children to attain education. Important among these initiatives that have direct linkages with education of children are the scholarships programmes. There are special schemes of assistance like scholarship under NFCH for children who are orphaned due to conflict related reasons. There have been attempts to investigate into the access of orphans to social security programs but they are not systematic, rigorous and comprehensive and have not been able to give an enriched analysis of the problems of children and the differential impact of conflict on them.
A significant section of the orphans are being helped by government, NGOs, relatives or community, but it doesn’t show the extent of the adequacy of this support to help children to overcome the problems to continue with education, to have access to the food, to be out of the child labour, among others. The study also does not look into the loopholes in the government social security system, which bars access to the destitute children and many orphans. However, to what extent the scholarships programmes are able to make an impact and enable children in distress to continue education is be explored. It is also important to study the impact of conflicts on children from a socio-economic perspective to understand its multi-faceted implications on people. The questions related to the linkages of political problems and the socio-economic conditions, access to education, health and well-being are important aspects to explore and to gain in-depth knowledge. Because of different coping capacities of people, differences in the level of vulnerability they are exposed to and the resources they possess, there is a likely to be a differential impact of conflict on populations, and therefore, important to understand.
These are all important questions to ask and study. With conflict increasing over the globe especially within nations itself and continue for decades together, an understanding into the human dimensions of the consequences of long terms conflicts will contribute towards conflict resolutions and improving services to vulnerable people especially children. However, considering the difficulties that such regions pose and for various other reasons, the research into such issues has been limited globally as well as in the context of J&K.
As a diverse group, children belong to different socio-economic groups and possess different attributes, therefore, their ability to respond to external challenges or a heightened risk varies depends of variety of factors. Therefore, children who are in conflict with law, children who are orphans, children engaged in child labour, children who live in destitution and poverty, children belonging to lower castes, children of upper class etc will show a different response to conflict. The impact will also be differential because of their different levels of vulnerability and differences in socio-economic conditions. Whether the impact of conflict on children who lost father due to conflict will vary as compared to children who lost father due to natural reasons are curious aspects. Similarly, whether children who are also living in similar circumstances but with parents are also equally impacted by the conflict is an important dimension to bring forth. Most of the studies that have looked into the impact of conflict on children haven’t looked at different sub-groups of children together, and lack a comparative perspective. In a similar way, whether children affected by conflict but have accessed government assistance will show a differential impact than those who didn’t receive any government assistance, is another important dimension to look at.