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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 30 / 125





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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

women in property, land and inheritance and in protection from sexual and gender- based violence. However, it will require time and a concerted effort of lobbying to ensure that these provisions are implemented in practice. Women’s organisations

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    ranging from economic organisations such as co-operatives and micro-finance

groups, to organisations engaged in local reconciliation work, to organisations of women parliamentarians - are engaged in all aspects of reconstruction. However, a major challenge they face is the concentration of resources and organisations in the capital, and the practical (logistical and financial) difficulties of developing organisations which link urban and rural populations.

1.3 Challenges facing young people

In a country where 46% of the population is under the age of 14, poverty weighs heavily on the young. Health indicators for young people are poor; for example, in 2001 it was estimated that 18% of children die before their fifth birthday. Eighty per cent of births are estimated to take place at home. Vaccination campaigns were abandoned for several years during the war. A combination of displacement, drought, low agricultural production, insecurity and the breakdown of services renders children and youth vulnerable to preventable diseases including malaria,

upper respiratory tract infections, and dysentery.

Both health and education

indicators are likely to improve after the 2006 decision by government to offer free primary education and basic health care for children, but it will take time for these improvements to take effect against the background of a previously depressed context. In 2002, for example, it was estimated that only 50% of primary-school aged boys, and 43% of girls, were registered in schools; many children failed to register because their parents were too poor to provide them with school fees, decent clothes, and materials, or did not see the need to send them to school.

In 2002 it was estimated that more than 600,000 children had been orphaned, many as a result of the war, but an estimated 230,000 following the death from AIDS of one or other parent. War has raised levels of violence experienced by children, as many have been forced to witness violent attacks and rapes carried out on their families and sometimes on themselves. Perpetrators have included both armed groups and neighbours: many believe, for example, that the incidence of incest is on the increase, though this is impossible to verify. What is certain is that many men believe that having sex with virgin girls can protect against diseases, including HIV, and this is believed to be responsible for the high levels of rape experienced by girls, including children and even occasionally babies (see section 1.4 below).

An estimated 14-16,000 young people were conscripted, some allegedly as young as 10 years old, into both government and rebel armies. Child combatants have been killed, executed, imprisoned and tortured. Child combatants include those

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