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War and Children

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Pursuing the well-being of children is ultimate goal of CRN. Not long ago, I wrote a blog post that expressed disappointment with the Child and Family Agency which will be established to pursue the happiness of children. It has, however, become ineffective in the early preparatory stages due to the ego of the adults.

However, for those who seek the happiness of children, the situation has suddenly changed so that it is hardly realistic to even consider a Child and Family Policy Bureau (something that I am not expecting in any case). What happened was the military invasion of Ukraine by Russia. It has threatened not only the lives of adults, but also the lives of children. Many children have already died from bullet wounds or in collapsed buildings. Among those still alive, there are 2 million children who have been forced to flee to neighboring countries as refugees.*

Last year, CRN conducted an international survey of happiness and resilience in children (5- and 7-years old) in cooperation with researchers in Asia. The results have been posted on our website in the near future. "Resilience" may not be a familiar word to some. According to one definition, it is the ability of an individual or organization to seek and use the psychological, social, cultural and material resources that make it possible to maintain one's well-being when placed in a difficult situation and the capacity of individuals or group to provide cultural meaning.

Researchers from eight nations and regions in Asia (Japan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand) participated in this joint international research project. Their efforts focused on researching the conditions (environment, upbringing, childcare, education, etc.) essential for children to lead strong and happy lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was conducted using the Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM-R) developed by a research center in Canada that studies the necessary conditions for high resilience in children and includes 17 conditions for increasing resilience, which include the following (reworded to some extent).

  • Parents understand the child well.
  • There is enough food to eat at home when child is hungry
  • Friends provide support.
  • Family members show concern during difficult times.
  • Friends show concern during difficult times.
  • The child feels safe with his/her family/caregiver.
  • The child enjoys celebrating seasonal activities, etc. with his/her family/caregiver.

In Europe, before the recent refugees from Ukraine, there were many refugees from Syria, and 2.7 million were children. According to research papers on the psychological health condition of child refugees from Syria, many suffer from depression, and this indicates that low resilience contributes to depression.

Refugee children are clearly deprived of the conditions that contribute to the heightening of resilience shown above.

I am not very familiar with the politics of the situation, but if the current information is correct, under the dictatorial control of just one person, more than 2 million children in Ukraine and an increasing number in the future can be expected to lose physical and mental health and their lives.

As a pediatrician, I must point out that this situation is clearly a greater enemy than the SARS-CoV-2. Of course, not all are enemies, there are many friendly supporters working for these children. There are doctors in Ukraine who have chosen to remain at the children's hospital to care for and treat the children who are patients there, many people who aid the refugees, and organizations that provide long-term support for refugee children.

The most recent issue of the publication Child Science, published by the Japanese Society of Child Science and of which I am also an editor, includes an interview with Chizuru Azuma, an actress who is active in Peace Village International in Germany, an organization that aids refugee children not only in Europe, but worldwide. Perhaps it is a coincidence, but it seems timely.

sakakihara_2013.jpg Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, Executive Advisor of Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute (BERD), President of Japanese Society of Child Science. Specializes in pediatric neurology, developmental neurology, in particular, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders, and neuroscience. Born in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo in 1976 and taught as an instructor in the Department of the Pediatrics before working with Ochanomizu University.