We must protect
children in conflict

The War on Children

One in six children across the world are living in areas impacted by conflict, and children are more at risk in conflict now than at any time in the last 20 years. From Syria to South Sudan, Yemen to DRC, children are caught up in violence, which is not of their making. Children are being killed and maimed, raped and recruited, and being denied aid and medical care. Warring parties are bombing schools and hospitals on a scale not seen for decades.

The War on Children: Time to End Violations Against Children in Armed Conflict looks at how conflict has impacted children, and sheds light on a worrying trend of increased brutality against children in conflict, particularly in the last few years.

The findings of this report are stark, and the message is clear – we need to take concerted, collective action to turn back the tide of brutality and indifference and better protect children in conflict.

Download our War on Children Report

You can also download the Executive Summary in the following languages:

العربية English Español Français

Key findings

Children living in conflict

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We are witnessing shocking abuses committed against children daily. But it doesn't have to be this way. Standing on the sidelines is no longer an option. We have the power to make change happen. Now is the time to end the killing of children at their school desks and in their hospital beds. We must protect children in armed conflict.

Save the Children is calling on world leaders to protect the world’s children – our children – from the horrors of armed conflict. They must hold perpetrators to account for war crimes against children, uphold existing laws, and help rebuild shattered lives.

Stand with us in our call to end the war on children by signing our petition today!

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Data trends



Podcast series

Anywhere but Home

Anywhere but Home is an audio drama podcast series based on true stories of the incredible journeys made by children and families displaced by conflict around the world.

Performed by actors, each episode is inspired by the stories of real people who have been helped by Save the Children as they flee war in their own country.

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1. What do you tell the children?

Jacob saved thousands of people whist working aboard the Search and Rescue vessel in the Mediterranean. One night two children were rescued from an overcrowded fishing boat. Whilst searching for their mother, the captain beckoned Jacob. He knew something was wrong.

2. What if knowledge was forbidden?

Samira’s father took a risk teaching girls at his village school in north-west Nigeria. Just teaching the Western alphabet could get you killed. When the insurgents came for her father, Samira swore she would never return to school. A chance meeting with a boy soldier gave her courage.

3. How do you mend what is broken?

Sam’s home in Damascus was destroyed by bombing. He knew he should join his family in exile but his work helping refugees was too important. His activities attracted attention from the authorities, and he faced the hardest decision of his life, stay and risk his life or leave and lose everything.

4. What if all you had were words?

Living in a camp in Yemen, Ayan, 15, was separated from her family and responsible for two, younger siblings. When war came to the camp, she had no possessions, money or help and they fell in with smugglers. A descendent of Somali nomads – storytellers and poets – Ayan user her gift of language.

5. How do you lose a baby?

Fleeing conflict in their village in South Sudan a family finds a malnourished baby hidden in leaves, deep in a forest. Surrounded by gunmen they race to a camp on the border with Uganda to get her medical attention.

6. How do you stop the nightmares?

In a town in Syria surrounded by minefields, with bombs exploding overhead, an elderly woman undertakes an epic journey to bring her grandchildren to safety in Lebanon. But even if they make it, she worries if they will ever recover from the horrors they’ve witnessed.



Kabala’s* Story, 17 years old from Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kabala's story

Kabala* lost both his parents at an early age, and was brought up by his grandparents. When the conflict broke out in 2016, he was recruited by friends to join the local armed group. With the promises of a good salary and rewards, Kabala joined the group so he could pay for school. “They used to take younger children because the children had less guilt,” Kabala said.

Drugged and under the influence of alcohol, Kabala was told he was invincible and sent to the frontlines with only sticks to fight. “We attacked many soldiers…I was joyful killing them. I was transformed into another spirit to fight. I couldn’t feel that killing was bad. I was numb…”

After seeing his friends die and being shot in the foot, Kabala managed to return home. Though physically safe, Kabala struggles to escape from his memories. “I feel that I’ve lost my childhood. This experience [has] affected my mind. I dream of bad things, of what had happened. Images of the fight…” Kabala still desires, more than ever, to go back to school and become a lawyer so he can defend other children who have been recruited by armed groups.

*Name changed to protect identity

Basma’s* story, 8 years old from Syria

Basma's story

“I was in class when my school was hit. We ran out of the school right away and I went back home. I found out later that many children had been injured. I have never seen my school or my friends again; I miss them a lot.”

8-year old Basma had to move a lot with her family after the attack, they had to rent a house in a new town to escape the fighting. “I never once stopped going to school but in this new town my school was hit, and this time 20 children died. After this, my family decided to move further to the north because at the time it was safer,” explains Basma.

But the first school was not good, the teachers were abusive for the smallest of things and did not focus on the education needs of the children. Now Basma and her family have moved again and she is in a new school that she likes. “I love the drawings and the colours on the walls. I love the English teacher the most, he is so kind and he teaches us so well.”

*Name changed to protect identity

Our Every Last Child Campaign

The world has made incredible progress for children - but millions are still being denied the opportunity to survive and learn simply because of who they are or where there are from. Many of these children are also victims of conflict. Save the Children's campaign – Every Last Child – strives to do whatever it takes to reach the world's most excluded children.

Without urgent action to tackle this exclusion, progress for children will slow and may even halt altogether. With this campaign we are asking the world to put excluded children first and remove the barriers that prevent millions of children from surviving, learning and being protected.

With your help, we can build a world in which no child’s opportunities are determined by who they are or where they were born. Together we can reach every last child.

Learn more about our campaign