420 Million Children—One in Five Children in the World—Are Growing Up in War Zones
THIS is the World of Imperialism

| revcom.us


It is a horrifying statistic: 420 million children are growing up in war zones. That’s greater than the entire population of the United States. That’s almost one in five children on this planet who are suffering indiscriminately and disproportionately in wars and conflicts that have everything to do with imperialism.

According to a recently published and extensively researched study, Stop the War on Children:

  • Thousands of children in the oppressed countries of the Third World are dying in battle-related killings and destruction each year. But far morehundreds of thousands of children each yearare dying in these zones due to the indirect effects of these conflicts: malnutrition, disease, and the breakdown of health care, water, and sanitation.
  • Thirty percent of children in Africa and 40 percent in the Middle East are living in conflict zones, subjected to being killed, maimed, kidnapped, and deliberately starved, and are facing acute health risks.
  • In war zones like Yemen and Syria, schools and health infrastructure are targeted for bombings. Warring factions block aid convoys. In the conflict zones of Africa, children become prey to child labor and sex trafficking.

The death, destruction, and dislocation have been major factors fueling the catastrophic global refugee crisis. It is now the case that one in 200 children in the world is a refugee.

It is staggering; it is heart-wrenching. Vast numbers of children in the Third World are growing up in these conditions, if they even make it to adulthood. Growing up in a world dominated and devastated by imperialism… by a system that is as cruel as it is unnecessary.

Deafening Silence in the U.S.

Was this report, Stop the War on Children, publicized in the U.S. media? No. Was it a source of public discussion and outrage in America? No. Did Democratic presidential hopefuls demand an immediate halt to America’s unjust wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria? Did they call for emergency investigations into the Obama and Trump administrations for arming and politically supporting its client regime, Saudi Arabia, which is bombing hospitals and schools and carrying out other war crimes in Yemen? Do you really need the answer?

These politicians are ever so shrill denouncing Russian “meddling” and “interference” in America’s elections. What about the fucking meddling and interference by America and other Western powers that are destroying the lives and futures of… 420 million children?

The Brutal Logic and Deadly Hand of Imperialism

Here in alphabetical order are, in the words of the report, “the ten worst conflict-affected countries to be a child.” Keep in mind as you look at this list that in 5 of these countries(*), the U.S. is waging wars or engaged in military interventions and operations, or providing vital military and logistical support:

Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of Congo
South Sudan

These countries did not emerge spontaneously as “conflict zones.” They have long been dominated economically, politically, and militarily by imperialism, even if they are formally independent states. Their populations have been exploited for profit. Their resources have been plundered for profitCongo’s minerals are vital to the supply chains of imperialism. Many have been battlegrounds in the great-power rivalry and geopolitics of imperialism. In all of them, munitions from the U.S., Russia, the UK, France, Germany, and China have been pouring in.

But maybe, someone might suggest, distressing as all this is… things are improving. No! The 420 million children living in war zones today is more than twice as high as in 1989-91, when the Cold War ended. Between 2016 and 2017 alone, the number of children in these zones increased by 30 million!

A. Imperial Invasions, Proxy Wars, and the Toll on Children

The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 1990 destroyed much of the country’s water and health systems. Not satisfied, the U.S. imposed punishing sanctions on the population: Iraq was prevented from selling oil and generating the revenue to obtain needed medical and other supplies. As a result, 500,000 Iraqi children died in the 1990s. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. And it invaded Iraq again in 2003—to topple a regime that was a thorn in its side and to turn Iraq into a strategic platform to project U.S. power in the oil-rich Middle East.

But the two invasions of Iraq and the invasion of Afghanistan did not go according to plan. They have unleashed chaos and fueled all kinds of civil war. In 2017 in Afghanistan, 3,179 children were wounded or killed, many from U.S. bombing and drone strikes.

In Syria, the U.S. is waging a proxy war with Russia. In other words, each side is fighting through intermediaries to advance its regional and global interests. Russia is backing the oppressive regime of Bashar Hafez al-Assad, and the U.S. is backing and arming local reactionary forces seeking to topple the regime. It is a war of atrocity. Today, one- third of Syria’s schools lie in rubble; and one in four children is at risk of developing a mental health disorder.

B. U.S. Arms Sales and Mass Destruction in Yemen

The U.S. is the top arms exporter in the world. The transfer of arms is a major means by which it secures its influence and domination over regimes that serve its regional and global interests. Saudi Arabia was the main recipient of U.S. arms sales in 2014-18. You see, the Middle East is a key region of the world—for oil, global trade, and transit routes—and Saudi Arabia with its oppressive, theocratic regime is a key cog in the U.S. empire’s domination over the Middle East and for confronting Iran.

An insurgency and civil war in Yemen is endangering Saudi Arabia’s position—and so the U.S. gives the green light for slaughter.

Saudi Arabia is carrying out war crimes in Yemen. Revcom.us has extensively documented the world’s largest and imperialist-caused humanitarian crisis. On average, Saudi Arabia carries out 14 air strikes a day. Hospitals, clinics, schools, school buses, apartment buildings, markets, gas stations, factories, and farms are strafed, bombed, and destroyed. One in five schools in Yemen is no longer being used; an estimated two million children in Yemen are out of school. And in the two years 2016-17 alone, 113,000 children starved to death, or died of malnutrition and preventable diseases, like cholera.

C. Memo from the U.S.: Arms Treaties Mean Nothing When They Interfere With Our Imperial Interests

The Stop the War on Children report makes the point that the sale of arms to a country like Saudi Arabia that commits humanitarian and human rights violations (targeting civilians and children in Yemen) is illegal under the terms of the 2014 Arms Trade Treaty. Conveniently and arrogantly, the U.S. has refused to sign the treaty.

The report also calls attention to landmines, one of the most indiscriminate battle weapons of the modern era; they especially endanger children and civilians in populated areas. True to form, the U.S.—we’re talking the Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations—has steadfastly refused to sign the 1999 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban. Why does America continue to stockpile three million landmines? Because, the U.S. proclaims, its military reserves the right to use these weapons in a conflict on the border between North and South Korea. No matter the human price.


This is a world that cries out for revolution, a revolution to overthrow this imperialist system. A communist revolution to bring about a world in which children’s well-being is valued… in which the very existence of a global divide between a handful of rich countries and the majority of humanity living in poor countries, being exploited and plundered by rich countries, has been overcome… a world where exploitation and oppression are no more… in which children can grow, learn, and flourish as part of and contribute to a world community of humanity.



Stop the War on Children: Protecting Children in 21st Century Conflict, Save the Children International, 2019 (https://www.stopwaronchildren.org/report.pdf)

Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2018, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2019 (https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2019-03/fs_1903_at_2018.pdf)

For three years the U.S. has supported its “strategic ally” Saudi Arabia in a genocidal war against Yemen, backed first by Obama and then by Trump. The war has led to a famine that has already taken the lives of 85,000 children and threatens more. Pictured here is 7-year-old Amal Hussein, who died of starvation a few days after this picture was taken. (Photo: AP)

In this frame grab from from video, people carry a child's body after pulling it out from rubble following Saudi-led coalition airstrikes that killed at least six, including four children, in the residential center of the capital, Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, May 16, 2019. The Sanaa airstrikes came after Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who control the capital, launched a drone attack earlier in the week on a critical oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia, Tehran's biggest rival in the region. (Photo: AP)

March 14, 2019, women and their children who left the besieged Islamic State-held village of Baghouz, Syria, scramble over a rocky hillside to be checked by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. An international aid group says it recorded 31 deaths in the final week of March among people making their way out of the last sliver of territory held by the Islamic State group and toward a camp for the displaced. The high weekly death rate reflects the desperate conditions of the mostly women and children who left the village of Baghouz for al-Hol camp. (Photo: AP/Maya Alleruzzo)


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