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The youngest are the most in need

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3 minutes

Today, every third person in the world is under the age of 18, but only some of them have the opportunity to enjoy an undisturbed childhood. Among the problems that interrupt the process of puberty are poverty, violence, and war, and with them mental deterioration and lack of access to education. Each of the up to 150 million children in need of humanitarian assistance has a name and a unique story.

It is in our hands to build a world that will give future generations a chance to develop healthily and live in safe conditions. Meanwhile, one in six children lives in an active armed conflict zone. After all, children are the group that suffers the most in such situations – says Małgorzata Olasińska-Chart from the Polish Medical Mission – The children we help are not statistics. These are, for example, Samanta from Venezuela, Asia from Iraq, or Hebe from Syria. Living people whose names and stories we often know.

After the tragic earthquake in Syria alone, as many as 3.7 million children found themselves in a situation requiring urgent humanitarian assistance. More children than ever in history experience refugee status, with at least 10 million of them worldwide. 40% of the more than 8 million people who have left Ukraine since the war broke out are children. The list of conflicts and disasters taking place around the world does not spare the youngest. According to UN estimates, 149 million children needed humanitarian aid in 2022, and it is expected that in 2023 this number will be even higher.

Wars and natural disasters also have significant social consequences. The 12-year war in Syria has led to an increase in forced marriages among girls before the age of majority. As many as 35% of Syrian girls who ended up in Lebanon as a result of the war married underage1. Getting married early is most often associated with teenage motherhood, which puts the lives of both mother and child at risk. Postponing the first birth to at least 20 years of age allows for reducing the risk of eclampsia and systemic infections in mothers and in their children, low birth weight, and severe condition of the newborn caused by premature birth.

In the past three decades, the number of deaths of children under the age of 5 has more than doubled, which we owe to access to better and better medical care and educational activities aimed at future mothers. The next stage is the long-term improvement of the quality of life, which consists of education, functioning in a healthy environment, wholesome food, and many other aspects.

Children’s organisms are easier to succumb to diseases that are less dangerous for adults. The three leading causes of death before the age of 5 are malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia, and yet we have all the tools at our disposal to limit their effects and save a sick child. Perinatal complications are another cause of death, which is why we reach places where it is necessary to prepare medical staff to deal with difficult cases and provide women with regular examinations during pregnancy, adds Olasińska-Chart. – adds Olasińska-Chart.

The positive news is emerging new solutions, such as malaria vaccines, which are slowly being introduced in African countries. But now, based on data from around the world, more children than ever need humanitarian assistance to survive. Everything indicates that the help of organizations such as the Polish Medical Mission will be needed for a long time.

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