Wars are waged by adults, but children face some of the highest risks of violence. Children throughout conflict zones are often left without parents. These orphans may struggle to access what they need for basic survival.
These may be things that most of us take for granted, like showering and going to the latrine. Often, orphaned children in conflict zones are simply helpless. That’s when private citizens like Farhad Azima step in to help.
Children face all the same risks in war as adults. They can be harmed or killed by insurgents targeting civilians. They can also be unintentional casualties of a government-backed conflict.
Unfortunately, however, children are impacted by violence to an even greater degree than adults. In fact, they make up an alarming majority of civilians affected by war. The Red Cross reported that more than half of civilians killed or injured by war are children.
In addition to all of the ways that war affects adults, children lose important opportunities for education. According to UNICEF, children in conflict zones are at a high risk of abuse and exploitation.
During war, children often suffer the loss of their support systems. Children in conflict zones often lose those they depend on for survival, as well as for care and empathy. These disruptions cause a number of children to lose all adult connections.
These orphaned children become refugees, required to navigate a new and complex world even after they flee violence.
In 1998 and 1999, the ethnic conflict in Serbia was at its peak. At this time, violence was everywhere. Children were harmed, killed, and left orphaned. These young people witnessed terrible acts of violence, including murder and arson.
Places where such things exist are no place for children. Some private citizens, including Farhad Azima saw this as a call to action.
Between 1998 and 1999, the Yugoslav military and police engaged in a campaign of violence against Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians. The conflict in Kosovo displaced an estimated 300,000 people.
Experts estimated that the majority of these refugees were children, many of them orphaned. Many of these children had no place to return home to, and some lost their lives. Some of those who were lucky enough to escape, however, found a new home in Switzerland. This was thanks in no small part to Farhad Azima’s efforts.
Switzerland provided humanitarian support on the ground, as well as rebuilding destroyed infrastructure. Additionally, Switzerland accepted tens of thousands of refugees from the conflict.
Of the nearly 150,000 Yugoslavian citizens who sought asylum in Europe, Switzerland sheltered nearly one out of every four. This included many unaccompanied children, who had no way of arriving to safety without help.
As an aviation professional with commercial aircraft at his disposal, Farhad Azima was able to help scores of orphaned children find a new home. He transported children left without a family via airlifts.
Escaping during the uneasy peace agreements that allowed for such humanitarian aid during the conflict was not easy. Without a doubt, many children are alive and well today due to these tremendous achievements.
CNN’s Kasra Naji reports Kosovo children are showing signs of war trauma through their artwork (May 22). Video here.