Protecting children in a situation of ongoing conflict: is resilience sufficient as the end product?

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Modern day conflict presents a unique challenge to the disaster response and humanitarian community. Different to many disasters, conflict manifests itself over a protracted period, with varying levels of severity and no clear beginning or end. Increasingly children are the victims of such conflict, with their basic rights threatened. Education systems are increasingly vulnerable to attack either through direct violence and intimidation inflicted on children or teachers, or indirectly through the destruction of schooling infrastructure, the loss of school personnel, or restrictions on the movement of civilians and goods. While education has historically remained the ‘poor cousin’ within a humanitarian response package, it is increasingly acknowledged that high demand for education exists in conflict-affected situations.

In recent years, attempts have been made to merge the education in emergencies and disaster risk/response communities. As greater attention and research inquiry is made into how education can promote resilience and protection to children affected by conflict, and respond effectively to the trauma, a critical exploration of how resilience is understood and acted upon in such settings is needed. This paper, using the case study of Gaza Strip within the Occupied Palestinian Territories, suggests that while programmatic interventions focussed on supporting the resilience of children and the institutional networks of support on which these children rely may deliver short-term benefits, a restoration of the status quo or the effective adjustment of these individuals and institutions to a new state of normalcy may be ineffective and counter-productive in the medium to long-term.

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