Marking the 100th anniversary of its founding, Save the Children has launched a global campaign reminding people that wars take a severe toll on children.
As part of the campaign, the Korea chapter of the children’s charity is holding a photo exhibition at Cheonggye Plaza in downtown Seoul from Friday to Tuesday under the theme of “Stop the War on Children.”
Portraits of children at refugee camps in Lebanon, Bangladesh (Save the Children)
The photos were taken by award-winning documentary photographer Han Geum-sung, who traveled with the foundation’s team to refugee camps in Lebanon and Bangladesh in January and March this year.
Among the most striking things about the refugee children were their aspirations for learning and fear of discontinuation in their education, Save the Children Korea Communications Director Park Young-ui said during the event’s opening ceremony Friday morning.
Following the trip, Save the Children Korea collected over 1,000 signatures both online and offline, calling for the Korean government to join the Safe Schools Declaration, an intergovernmental effort seeking to protect children’s rights to education in warring regions.
Korea has yet to commit to the declaration, which had been endorsed by 87 nations as of May 2019. But the government is set to attend the third international conference on safe schools to be held later this month in Spain, where its endorsement decision is expected to take place, the foundation said.
One of Save the Children’s missions is reminding people that “war is always going on somewhere,” which ironically is often forgotten because of its perpetuity, Park told The Korea Herald.
One-fifth of children worldwide, or around 420 million, live in troubled regions, according to the foundation. About 870,000 children under 5 have died in armed conflict between 2013 and 2017, with the number of fatalities five times as many as that of combatants.
These figures show how vulnerable children are, and how all wars are wars on children, said the Korea chapter’s Board Chair Oh Joon during a press conference held after the opening ceremony.
The foundation came here in the immediate aftermath of the Korean War in 1953, and Korea has since transformed from a beneficiary to a donor country.
Still, children need protection from dangers beyond immediate threats to life, Oh said, adding that 40 percent of the Korea chapter’s work is for children here.
According to Oh, hardships faced by children in Korea include domestic violence, difficulties in finding homes after being orphaned and neglect of the “right to play,” which is a children’s right stipulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Women and children are two most victimized populations at times of war. We hope this year’s anniversary event serves as a reminder that there are children in need of our help,” he said.
Photos feature refugee children at schools, with a caption that reads, “School is the only space where children are allowed to dream.” (Save the Children)
A participant makes handprints on a wall as part of the “Stop the War on Children” campaign. (Save the Children)
Save the Children Korea’s Board Chair Oh Joon speaks during a press conference Friday. (Save the Children)