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Khyber crisis: children’s plight

“Many children are now afraid and show signs of behavioural change,” said one of our staff who conducted a group discussion with mothers of families displaced by the conflict in Pakistan’s Khyber Agency.

“One woman said that her child is now eerily quiet, while another mentioned that her children have lost their appetites.”

Children’s lives have been turned upside down after being displaced from their homes since January this year.

Suffering from lack of sufficient food, education and a safe environment, many children are showing signs of psychological problems.

Parents fear their children will never enter a school again, while others are concerned they will be forced to send their little ones to work – even six- or seven-year-olds.

Lost childhoods

Jamil is a slender 14-year-old boy. I met him at Save the Children’s health camp where he had brought his two-year-old brother for treatment for the flu.

Jamil told me that he’s now responsible for the well-being of his siblings:

“There was continuous gunfire and bombing when we were leaving Bara [town in Khyber Agency]. Someone told my father it was safer to leave at dawn but after ten minutes on the road there was a huge explosion.

“Three people were injured on the bus, including my father. He was bed-ridden for two weeks when we arrived in Peshawar. He’s better now but still can’t walk more than a few steps.

“I’m now working at a grocery store to support my family. I have four younger siblings and two are going to a government school nearby. I do not want them to leave school for work.”

Jamil was studying at a government school in Bara. He was a bright student and was looking forward to completing his exams.

“I want to go back to school but I don’t know when we will go back home.”

Heartbreaking stories

There are endless similarly heartbreaking stories narrated by displaced children.

There’s ten-year-old Ahmad who saw the ruin of his school while fleeing from his village. He also witnessed the destruction of three houses and saw dead bodies lying on the road.

Ahmad belonged to a joint-family structure, where the families of four brothers lived together in a large house. Now they are all scattered and his family lives in a tattered but expensive two-bedroom house outside of Peshawar.

There’s eight-year-old Palwasha, whose baby cousin had lost her life when a bomb went off close to their home. She said she was laughing and playing in the morning but either the falling debris or the shock from the blast had stopped her heart.

100 years since World War One made Eglantyne Jebb set up Save the Children, it is sad to witness children who are still suffering from armed conflicts around the world.

In Syria, Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia and other parts of the world, no crisis spares the lives of innocent boys and girls.

The world must realise that Eglantyne Jebb was not just talking about WWI when she said: “I have no enemies under the age of seven”.

Please help us respond to this crisis – donate to our Emergency Fund

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