KUALA LUMPUR, Sept. 11 (PNA) -- A Nigerian girl who experienced conflict in her childhood broke her silence during the 7th World Summit on Media for Children and begged for peace, food to eat, water to drink, medicine for hospitals and for children to be sent to school instead of exposing them to never-ending war.
Winifred Maduko, 18, from Nigeria, who attended the world summit on media for children, finally broke her silence shortly before the summit ended at the five-star The Royale Chulan hotel here after a Palestinian speaker tackled about children’s rights and potential as future leaders of the world.
On this instance, Maduko stood up, expressed her feelings for children and revealed that children in conflict areas like in Gaza can no longer go to school, have no food to eat and water to drink, and without hospital and medication.
“When they want to cry, there is no shoulder to cry on because their parents have long died during bomb attack. This is the life of the children in Gaza,” this was her powerful message that re-echoed in the hall where 1,000 delegates from about 100 countries stood in silence, obviously touched.
“As children, we all need to develop to the fullest. So we can live up to our expectations in the nearest future as the world’s future leaders. We all need to stand up and protect the rights of children no matter where we are, no matter what our continent is, or our culture or our language is. We should say 'no' to war because the children are the number one victims of war,” she said.
Maduko, who has personally experienced conflict, said that with the saga of war all around the world, the children are the most vulnerable.
“You will believe with me that no child can develop in such an environment full of dirt and perhaps, burnt bodies during a bomb attack and the least goes on and on. For us, the children, to survive, the world must learn how to live in peace and harmony -- loving and caring for one another; and finally, respecting the life of each other,” she said, adding "Our world leaders as we know are human beings like you but talking about what they can do, our world leaders should live in peace first. Preach peace and fight for peace to reign."
As a child, she said, she feels dust.
"Those other children are also experiencing war in their country and though I am not there physically, I know their feeling. They have no food, no water; they do not go to school. All these things happen to the children and even more. Let’s us all say 'no' to war and let peace reign,” she said in strongly reiterating her call.
Her appeal was lauded with a big applause by the delegates.
Maha Mostafa Akeel, a former journalist now serving as director of the information department of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and one of the speakers in the pre-summit workshop of the 7th World Summit on Media for Children before the official session, said it’s hard to provide children in normal living conditions with their rights for protection, education, health care, safe environment and good entertainment.
"Even their simplest rights are violated and jeopardized," Akeel said, adding “I’m here to talk about media’s role in promoting and improving children’s rights in the most distressing of situations -- war and conflicts. Imagine the effects of war on innocent children who do not understand why would someone bomb their house and kill their parents; why do they have to leave their home and their toys and their favorite blankets to live in tents; why they can’t go to their school which was destroyed or why there is no medicine or doctors to treat them in the hospital,” she asked.
Akeel said that children refugees in Lebanon account for half of the Syrian refugees, estimated at 1.17 million, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Of those children, around 400,000 are of school age but only 90,000 will be able to register in official Lebanese schools this year as these cannot accommodate more, being stretched to the limit.
Around 300,000 Syrian children in Lebanon will be enrolled in private schools or get some sort of regular education in their camps through programs and assistance from UNICEF and non-governmental organizations.
While in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had to flee to Kurdistan region in the north to escape the violence in addition to the thousands of Syrian refugees who also fled there.
Many of these refugees have been sheltered in schools.
The Kurdistan region, according to Akeel, is facing a big challenge of providing shelter and schooling to their children as well as the refugee children.
In Gaza, during the ongoing Israeli aggression, it is not only the children’s education that has been interrupted but also their life as based on the statistics, at least 581 children were killed in the brutal inhumane attack and 2,877 wounded.
The long-term and short-term impacts on children and their families are almost impossible to quantify, she said.
She stressed that the effects of war on children include death, injury, disability, illness, rape and prostitution for subsistence, psychological suffering, moral and spiritual impacts -- thus, social and cultural losses.
"It’s really a complete devastation on their lives and future," Akeel lamented.
“These are only a few examples where we are increasingly seeing how children are being affected by war. Not only in the death statistics but also through the exposure to the brutality of war can we see the devastating impacts on children’s lives, which will be felt even by the generations to come,” Akeel said.
While the media, according to her, generally tends to focus on issues such as education and health when reporting about the effects of war on children, they do not give much attention to the children's needs for social interaction activities for stress debriefing to lessen their suffering and divert their mind away from the devastating impacts of war.
She said that her office is working with the government and NGOs to address the needs of the refugee children.
Akeel also called on the media reporting from the conflict zones to protect children from exposing violence in media as they have enough of violent exposure.
“We need to be careful about the war images children are exposed to, whether those who are in the war zones and are already living and seeing the horrors of war or those far away from them in the safety of their own homes. There is already unfortunately enough violence in the world; we do not need to bring it in home to the children through video and computer games and televised images,” she said.
The communications officer saw the need to give home to children and teach them that violence is not a way to solve problems.
"Rather than the constant images of destruction, mayhem and death, let us help them see a better future for themselves and speak up against war,” she pointed out.
The 7th World Summit on Media for Children is a high-level gathering of delegates across a wide spectrum of broadcasters, regulators, academe and the international community from almost 100 countries across the globe.
Dr. Patricia Edgar, founder of World Summit on Media for Children, earlier said media in this digital age are very crucial to educate the children as the old paradigms are breaking down, following the introduction of information and communication technology in the 21st century. (PNA) CTB/FGS/RBB/CBD/