Children in conflict zone prone to poor brain development, says UNICEF


The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday said children who lived in conflict areas were prone to extreme trauma which could impede their cognitive, social and physical development.

The information is contained in a statement issued by Ms Doune Porter, the UNICEF Chief of Communication in Nigeria.

The statement quoted Porter as stating that more than 86 million children globally under the age of seven spent their lives in conflict zones, thereby affecting the spate of their development..

She said “children living in conflict zones are often exposed to extreme trauma, putting them at risk of living in a state of toxic stress, a condition that inhibits brain cell connections.

“This shows significant life-long consequences to their cognitive, social and physical development.

“More than 86.7 million children under the age of seven have spent their entire lives in conflict zones, putting their brain development at risk,.”

The chief of communication noted that within the first seven years of life, a child’s brain had the potential to activate 1,000 brain cells every second, adding that
each one of those cells, known as neurons, had the power to connect to another 10,000 neurons thousands of times per second.

In addition, she said, the brain connections served as the building blocks of a child’s future, defining their health, emotional well-being and ability to learn.

In the statement, UNICEF figures showed that globally, one in 11 children aged six or younger had spent the most critical period of brain development growing up in conflict.

“Conflict robs children of their safety, family, friends, play and routine.

“These are all elements of childhood that provide the best possible chance of developing fully and learning effectively,’’ it said.

It indicated that brain development in children enabled them to contribute to their economies, societies as well as build strong and safe communities when they reach adulthood.

The UNICEF therefore urged stakeholders to invest more to provide children and caregivers with the critical supplies, learning materials and psycho social support needed to restore a sense of childhood among children in conflict areas.

It also said that breastfeeding, early nutrition, stimulation by caregivers and learning opportunities would facilitate the brain development of the child to reach its adult capacity.

The statement noted that UNICEF had intervened by providing child-friendly environments, emergency learning and play materials for children, among other interventions.

According to it, emergency kits have also supported more than 800,000 children living in emergency situation in the past year.

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