Who are the primary victims of civil war, regional war, and war by proxi and by terror in our world?
American forces are involved in some of the worst instances of abuse of children — by war, displacement, and denial of normal health and safety — in the world. Venues of U.S. involvement that affect children in disproportionate numbers include Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, West Africa, and Yemen.
About 60 percent of the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar are children.
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But our government seems barely to notice the children at risk around the globe. And the record is not tremendously better at home. Congress has not yet funded the Children’s Health Insurance Program, for instance, which is rapidly running out of money across the country.
Congress is also considering funding the budget shortfall produced by the new tax bill by cutting into Medicaid, 50 percent of which is spent on the health of children.
The risk to children overseas is harder to remedy, because so many other players are in the picture. But a report of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, released last month, spelled out the extent of the unpardonable toll.
Some 135 children were used as suicide bombers in Nigeria and Cameroon. Sixty percent of the half-million Rohingya people forced out of their homes in Myanmar into poverty-stricken Bangladesh were children. Approximately 2,300 children were killed or wounded in South Sudan’s meaningless tribal fighting. Some 15 percent of the numerous child soldiers recruited into fighting forces in Somalia are in the Somali national army, trained and equipped by American forces. An estimated 220,000 children are estimated to be living in the war-torn eastern part of Ukraine.
The United States has leverage — political, economic, and military. It needs to do more to end the wars in which the chief collateral damage is to children, and it needs to take more care to protect the young and innocent in the places where the U.S. is engaged.
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