Childhood in Rubble: The Humanitarian Consequences of Urban Warfare for Children

Urban warfare causes death and injury among civilians on a staggering scale. It destroys homes, communities and the social fabric. It cuts off access to health care, education, electricity, and clean water. Even so, accounts of the consequences of urban warfare for children, as a distinct segment of the civilian population, are – when composed – often incomplete. This may come as a surprise: after all, one in six children lives in a conflict zone. Urban warfare mostly – though not always – takes place in settings with high birth rates and young populations. Children usually make up a large proportion of the people displaced (either internally or across international borders) by armed conflict. This report aims to address this gap and sets out how international law protects children in urban warfare, and makes legal, policy and operational recommendations for the actors in a position to protect children’s lives. It draws from interviews with key stakeholders, and from a desk review, to provide an assessment of the consequences of urban warfare for children. Children must not be regarded simply as miniature adults. The risks they face in urban warfare settings are distinct, and must be understood within the context of their social, physical, psychosocial and cognitive development.