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What is life really like growing up in a war zone?


What is it really like growing up in a war zone? We spotlight on two stories from Somalia and DR Congo that give an insight into the destruction that war can bring to childhoods, but also the incredible work being done to rebuild them.

  • Published

    1 June 2017
  • Written by

    Charlotte Fraser

According to UNICEF nearly one quarter of all the world’s children live in conflict, or in disaster-stricken areas.

250 million youths live in the middle of violence. One in every nine children is growing up in a war zone.

But what is it really like growing up in a war zone?

We spotlight on two stories from Somalia and DR Congo that give an insight into the incredible work being done by local people to rebuild young lives that have been touched by war and violence.


Growing up in a war zone: Abshir’s story


Growing up in the middle of civil war in Somalia, Abshir had a tough childhood.

He and his family fled the capital, Mogadishu, when fighting broke out. They moved to a new city called Kismayo where the fighting was less violent.

But aged 10, Abshir lost his father in clan violence. He managed to attend a few years of school but had to drop out when his mother could no longer pay the fees.

Absir used to go to the seaside to swim or play football with other children his age. When he saw other boys fishing he felt sad. He did not have anyone to teach him the skill or help him make the tools and rods.

But for Abshir, the project of a local organisation helped him transform his life.

Abshir is now his 20’s and is working to become an electrical engineer. Despite his tough early years – the death of his father and his interrupted education – he is hopeful for his future.

Abshir says: “If I hadn’t had this opportunity I would be someone who is in deep poverty. Now I feel different in my future. I hope to increase my electric skill knowledge until I become an engineer.”

Without the support of a local organisation, Abshir’s life experiences as a child could have forced him to join a militant group just to survive, or attempt the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.



Surviving a life as a child soldier: Freddie’s story

Freddie was just six years old when Congolese rebels took him from his village.

As a young child they forced him to join the militia where he saw terrible violence. In the camp Freddie was made responsible for mixing drugs for the soldiers.  They believed these drugs gave them magical powers so that they could turn stones into bullets and would make the children fearless in the face of battle.

Until one day, our local peacebuilding partner, Centre Résolution Conflits, walked into the bush and secured Freddie’s release.

At just 11 years old Freddie was the youngest of the group of boys Henri released from the clutches of the Mai-Mai. He had been in the bush for five years.

After so many years in the bush Freddie was the quietest and most withdrawn of the children. Life as a child under the militia had traumatised him.

This is why local CRC volunteers gave Freddie and the other boys trauma counselling. This is essential to help reintegrate them back into normal life. They were given new, clean clothes and the freedom to play.

Freddie was reunited with his family who were prepared for Freddie’s return.

With help, Freddie got a job as an apprentice at a bakery. His job is to knead the dough, stoke the fire and put the bread in the oven.

He can earn $3 a day, a small amount but enough to support himself until he can start school. This is now the most important thing for Freddie – to have access to an education he missed in the militia.



The future?

In every war zone there are children suffering or being drawn into deadly violence. But in every war zone, there are brave local individuals and organisations working to stop the root causes of conflict, and support children who have had their lives touched or destroyed by violence.

We are dedicated to supporting them to help build a more peaceful future now, and for the next generation

If you are inspired to make a difference for young people growing up in the midst of war, watch a short video about our work in Somalia and support our latest appeal.



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