The civilian population, consisting largely of children in the present regions of conflict, is affected far more than in the past by the techniques, strategies and social costs of modern wars. The children suffer the effects of warfare directly: including the death of their nearest relations or separation from them; the destruction of the familial, social and environmental structure; forcible displacement; detention; abandonment; child conscription; physical and psychical wounds; deprivation of care, food and education; and indirectly including: lower expenditure on services for children; limited access to services near front lines and in high-security zones; increasing migration and displacement leading to family breakdown; as well as long-term poverty, psychological stress and damage following war.
War constitutes a major risk factor for children's emotional development. Armed conflict provokes in them behaviour disorders, sleep disturbances, learning difficulties and terrors. War children have difficulty turning into peace children, which may contribute to prolonging conflicts. Up to 80% of the victims of certain conflicts are civilians. During the war in Rwanda, killing children was encouraged as part of a military strategy.
Any brutal treatment inflicted upon children, individually or collectively, adversely affects the future of society. For one who has known only violence, the faculty of adaptation to peace and social solidarity will be impaired in adulthood. Disorder and armed conflicts rob children of their most precious years of play and physical, psychical, intellectual and social development.