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Children are the future

27 May 2024 6 minute read
Casualties at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza. Photo Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa) in contract with APAimages, CC BY-SA 3.0

Gwern Gwynfil

Children are dying as a result of armed conflict all across the world right now. We are all very aware of the conflict in Gaza. Most of us will know that children are dying there in significant numbers – ‘collateral damage’ in a conflict that has drawn the attention of the world.

Some of us will know that children are dying in large numbers in Sudan, will be vaguely aware that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has claimed the lives of children, perhaps will even have an inkling that innocent children are often casualties in the civil war in Myanmar.

The list is longer – we need to add Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Haiti, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia. There may be more.


In 2022 the verified figure that year for global incidents of child deaths and maiming as a direct consequence of conflict and war was 8,630. Rest assured that the verified figure will be significantly lower than the actual number of children killed and maimed. Sadly, verified figures for 2023 and 2024 look as though they will be far higher.

The long term figures are truly horrific. Unicef’s verified figures for child deaths in Yemen since the start of the civil war in 2015 exceed 11,000. Verified child deaths in the Syrian conflict between 2011-2023 number in excess of 22,000. Global Unicef verified figures for children killed or maimed by wars between 2005 and 2023 exceed 120,000.

This equates to 20 children being killed or maimed *every day*, for over a decade, by wars and conflicts despite the reality that they are, by definition, innocents. It is highly likely that within an hour or two either side of you reading this article a child has been killed and a child has been maimed – collateral damage in an armed conflict somewhere in the world.

What can we do?

Can we do anything? Perhaps we have no option but to be horrified bystanders in a world where politics and geopolitics dictate that all these children are simply losses that must be tolerated as a part of life.

I don’t believe this to be true. Every voice raised can make a difference. Despite our small size, here in Wales we have a long and illustrious history of raising our voice. Over the centuries that voice has an impact far beyond the relative size of our nation.

That history tells us our voice today can be amplified if we have the will to raise it and do some shouting.

The history of peace campaigning in Wales is deep and long. This piece about the Women’s petition a century ago, currently being celebrated by an exhibition in Sain Ffagan, the museum of Welsh life, touches on some of that history.

We still see the legacy of our history of petitioning for peace today.

Every year, without fail, the Urdd broadcasts it’s message of peace and goodwill. They are the inheritors of a tradition begun in Wales over a century ago. It is our children here in Wales who are keeping the flame of the Welsh campaigns for peace alive.

Time for us to build on that history today and demand a world where the killing and maiming of children is quite simply not tolerated under any circumstances.

Our Opportunity

The children of Wales can take the lead here. To celebrate the initiative of the women of Wales a century ago let’s teach our history of peace in every school in Wales over the next twelve months, let’s tell our children about the importance of Henry Richard, the Apostle for Peace, in the 19th century; let’s teach them about the significance of the League of Nations Union in Wales in the 20th century; let’s explain to them why the Temple of Peace is in Wales not elsewhere; let’s tell them about the women’s petition for peace.

Let’s ask them to sign their own children’s petition demanding greater protection and safeguarding for children caught in conflict zones.

The children of Wales could likely match the number of signatures on the Women’s petition a century ago – it would be a challenge but it would send a powerful message. A message of peace. A simple heartfelt plea to stop the killing of innocent children delivered by children fortunate to live in a peaceful world. Young voices raised in solidarity with those who are not similarly blessed.

A handful of Welsh children could take that petition and present it to the United Nations. The collective voice of the children of Wales becoming a shout loud enough to focus attention on the plight of children in warzones.

Some may say that such things make no difference and are futile efforts. Understandable cynicism in a world of widespread corruption and career politicians.

I disagree vehemently with such defeatism. Silence guarantees that children will continue to die and be maimed in large numbers, raising our voices ensures that the conversation continues, ensures that those responsible for killing and maiming children cannot escape scrutiny, ensures that the children are not forgotten or dismissed.

Taking a Lead

Here in Wales we already have the organisations to take the lead and make this happen. I know the children of Wales would get on board, showing great enthusiasm and compassion for their global peers. The opportunity would teach them that their voice matters, that they can be heard – as they grow they will not forget and will become vocal, politically engaged adults. Understanding the power of our voices makes it easier to speak.

The Urdd already has the message of peace and goodwill and a network throughout the nation. The Welsh Centre of International Affairs (WCIA) is the custodian of the peace petitions of the past and the inheritor of the mantle of the League of Nations Union and other peace campaigns.

There is no doubt that UNICEF would welcome such a campaign from Wales as they have long led the calls for global action to protect children in war. Schools can seize this opportunity to add to their capacity to teach our children about our history, not just for a year but on an ongoing basis – the new Curriculum for Wales demands it and what an opportunity to have a national unifying project across all of our primary and secondary schools.

Come on Cymru. Let’s make it happen.

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Susan Durston
Susan Durston
7 days ago

Great idea. But in addition to the UN it’s the leaders causing the wars which need this petition, as well as our own countries. I’m ex-UNICEF and know that they will be doing all that is humanly possible. I now run CHILD TO CHILD voluntarily and I totally agree that this would empower children.

Alan W
Alan W
6 days ago

Children in Wales could be a powerful force that could ignite a flame within the UK also. Young people have always led, take nuclear disarmament, apartheid and now the Palestine, Israel war. Let them shout,”Give Peace a Chance”. Let the so called, adult leaders of the world, hear the message. Thank you for your passionate thoughts on this.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 days ago

It is every kid for themselves, your parents have other priorities it seems…

In view of the countless crimes against children from birth through to adulthood exposed recently as committed by the State no politician from Sunak down should mention ‘British Values’ for they are positively Roman…

Garry Jones
Garry Jones
6 days ago

If anyone doubts the power of a young person to make themselves heard, to harness the power of their peers around the world, and to make world leaders listen and hear future generations speak – then watch BBC i-Player>Search>I Am Greta. I watched this 90 minute documentary film last night. It shows the potential power of young campaigners, whether for climate action, or peace. 

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
6 days ago

No child deserves to live under the constant threat of war and the death of 1 child during war is 1 child too many!

I believe the numbers quoted in this article to be incorrect, there are no links to any other websites to provide any kind of supporting evidence to justify the numbers given

The number of Palestinian children killed in the first three weeks alone, after hamas’ actions on 7/10/2023, was 3,195. This number is far higher than the annual number of children killed in conflict zones since 2019

Gwern Gwynfil
Gwern Gwynfil
6 days ago
Reply to  Richard Davies

Diolch Richard
I was careful to only make use of Unicef’s verified numbers.
There will be many more unverified deaths, of both children and adults, that do not make official numbers because of the way in which they are recorded (or because they are simply not recorded officially anywhere…).
The figures are also lagging as confirmed data for 2023 had not been published in full when I was researching.
I expect confirmed figures for 2023 and 2024 to be very high indeed, horrendous and deeply upsetting.

5 days ago

Much as the young of the more affluent parts of the world have come together to support action on climate change, so children can unite (take days off school – thereby avoiding the building collapsing on them) to show their distress at colleagues across the world being killed by the egos of adults (because that is what wars is). As a 17 year old, a handful of well-meaning sixth-form male friends and I spent a week dressed in drag as a woman and went for 24 hours without food. This was in support of HALO’s campaign to rid the world… Read more »

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