Beyond Conflict international panel event on children of war and mental health

June 2024

Beyond Conflict international panel event on children of war and mental health
Pledge to work with partners on building wider campaign

Beyond Conflict and its partner the Ukrainian Welcome Centre (UWC) co-hosted a panel discussion on children of war and the resultant global mental health crisis on 6 June 2024, with eminent speakers from around the world. With its partner, Beyond Conflict said it wanted to launch a campaign on the issue,  also working with children globally to voice their generation’s concerns.

As a result of the discussion, leading voices from the world of humanitarian aid and mental health said they would join BC in efforts to raise awareness in the UK and overseas.

The event, which included leading humanitarian and mental health experts, condemned the normalisation of the targeting of children in conflict zones, at a time when more than 460 million children are fleeing from or living amidst war. As a result 1 in 5 children affected by war have serious mental health issues, according to UNICEF. Yet children continue to be targeted in wars, despite this being in contravention of international law.

International humanitarian experts spoke at the Beyond Conflict/UWC event that was opened by BC Director/Co-Founder Edna Fernandes and UWC Director Andriy Marchenko, with BC Chair Edmund Newell moderating.  The event took place at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Mayfair and was about all children, in all wars.

The Beyond Conflict/UWC panel discussion aimed to throw a spotlight on the issue and how to address it. We ended with a commitment to build a global coalition of voices against the targeting of children in conflict and find ways to address the mental health fallout and shortfall in resources on the ground.

Newell said:

“It is vital that the long term impact of mental health on children and other victims of war becomes a higher international priority.”

Fernandes, said:

“After the end of World War II, the world promised the next generation a better future. For more than 460 million children today, that promise has been broken. Once more, terror casts its shadow over childhood on a global scale. The result is 1 in 5 kids impacted by war live with trauma and mental health problems. This event aims to discuss how we address this urgent issue.”

See Fernandes’ full speech here >

Marchenko said we were witnessing a betrayal of the post-war legal architecture set in place to protect ordinary people and children:

“The targeting of civilians and children continues to be the norm in armed conflicts…As a consequence, many children around the world are living with fear. This has led to a mental health crisis around the world.”

 Our speakers were:

Iuliia Osmolovska, Director of the GLOBSEC Kyiv office and a member of the Civil Council of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, who has led a taskforce on PTSD for GLOBSEC.

Golam Abbas, a retired veteran of UNHCR where he held senior positions with the UN agency across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe during his 37 year career, working on conflict resolution, peace and reconciliation, elimination of sexual exploitation and abuse as well as building refugee camps for people fleeing war and genocide. Abbas is a partner to Beyond Conflict in the Rohingya refugee camp project.

Hugh McLeod is the Communications Lead for the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), the world’s leading network of legal and health professionals supporting survivors of torture. He is also a barrister and award winning film-maker.

Also speaking was BC Ambassador Arabella Dorman, on her work as a war artist and the artist-curator of the BC-supported Child of War Exhibition. Dorman said the Exhibition had opened the eyes of many to how children view war in their own lives. Our final speaker was Narmina Mammadova, Founder of the War Through Children’s Eyes arts competition for children, which is raising funds for BC this year. Mammadova set up the competition in 2022 as a vehicle to express children’s voices about how war impacts their lives. Mammadova said it was vital that children everywhere voiced their views about war and called for a wider engagement with schoolchildren everywhere so there is empathy and understanding.


More than 80% of Ukrainian children expected to have PTSD

In a harrowing and emotional presentation, Osmolovska told the audience of the impact of the Russian war in Ukraine upon Ukrainian children: “The deepest scars of war are in a child’s soul. Over 80% of Ukrainian children are expected to get some kind of post traumatic stress disorder including aggression, flashbacks, panic attacks, negative emotions, fear, being unable to think properly or speak,” she said.

These may be caused by witnessing or experiencing torture, rape, the killing of loved ones, occupation and other horrors of war. Osmolovska also spoke of the kidnapping and forcible deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia during the war. Thousands of such cases (19,546) are documented, but the Ukrainian Parliament commissioner for human rights, Dmytro Lubinets, has claimed the figure is likely to be much higher.

“Mental health can impact an individual, an entire nation”

 Abbas spoke widely of his deep experience of the impact of war and displacement upon children in conflicts around the world during his career at UNHCR.  Today he works with Beyond Conflict and other NGOs to help train and build capacity for mental health support in places like the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, where more than 500,000 children are living in a camp of 1 million refugees who fled the 2017 Myanmar genocide.

“The impact of mental health is all encompassing. The anxiety, uncertainty and stigma it generates can affect a single individual all the way to an entire nation,” said Abbas. He added that such was the scale of the problem that it needed to be tackled internationally whilst also focusing on many small grass roots initiatives as well. “We must tackle this challenge from the top as well as from the bottom,” he said.

The unique vulnerabilities of children

McLeod made a compelling presentation on the IRCT’s work with regard to children: understanding the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of children in conflict zones; what the best practices are for addressing their psychological needs; ensuring that available mental health support was accessible and culturally sensitive and advocating for more effective ways to ensure children’s protection under international law.

All the panel experts committed to supporting Beyond Conflict and UWC’s commitment to create a campaign led by children’s voices on ending the targeting of kids in war and addressing their mental health needs.

Beyond Conflict and the Ukrainian Welcome Centre voiced their joint commitment to continue to work together with all partners and stakeholders to take this issue forward. We will be connecting with interested parties in the coming months on this. And be announcing details of our campaign. So watch this space.

To support our work, please donate if you can and spread the word of our work online or get in touch to help us. Thank you.




Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Get in touch for information and inquiries regarding
mental health, fundraising, or volunteering for Beyond Conflict.

Send a cheque to Beyond Conflict, c/o our Legal Counsel Robert Craig at:

Beyond Conflict
c/o RDC
Howard Kennedy LLP
1 London Bridge

General Enquires:
Contact our Co-Founder :
0797 1667553

Contact our Head of Communications:



Registered Charity Number: 1176499