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With funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, Save the Children has begun a study of the humanitarian impact of widespread organised armed violence on vulnerable children and young people in the Northern Triangle of Central America and Mexico (NTCAM).

By applying a humanitarian lens to understand the problem and the effects of violence in NTCAM Save the Children seeks to save lives, alleviate suffering, and protect human dignity. We wish to understand the effects of this manmade crisis and therefrom design interventions that help those affected get back on their feet.

To do this, we have begun by asking ourselves three main questions:

  • What is known about the effects of organised armed violence on vulnerable children and young people in NTCAM?
  • Can the effects of organised armed violence on vulnerable children and young people in NTCAM be understood from a humanitarian perspective using humanitarian tools?
  • What approaches can Save the Children in the region take to respond to identified needs?

To answer these questions we will analyse the situation of organised armed violence as a crisis in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. We will also look at the impact this crisis is having on the populations of these countries and the coping strategies that have emerged as a result.

The first phase of the research has been to hire a consultant to firstly review and analyse secondary information on organised armed conflict in NTCAM. This literature review has explored competing ideas about violence and humanitarianism’s role in addressing it within the context of NTCAM. From this analysis, Save the Children has reached the following preliminary conclusions:

An analysis of selected indicators such as incredibly high homicide rates, injury rates, and the size of the private security sector suggest that some countries in the region exhibit warlike symptoms despite being formally at peace.

The extensive loss of life, acute forms of displacement, limited access to basic services, types of weapon bearers, mass kidnappings, disappearances, extortion and the recruitment of children into these armed groups all are cause for serious concern from a humanitarian perspective. These severe consequences of violence are among the strongest reasons why the humanitarian community should reconsider the way it engages in the region.

No single factor can explain why the levels of violence in Central America and Mexico are above the global average. However, we are able to glean a clearer picture of the situation of violence in the region when looking at how certain structural causes such as poverty, inequality, and corruption, combine with certain accelerating factors such as the economic downturn of 2008, the expansion of the drug trafficking trade, the availability of arms and the war on drugs.

Our research is still in its early stages but the findings to date have made it clear to Save the Children that, on top of costing lives and stunting development, violence in Latin America and the Caribbean robs millions of children of their right to a full life.

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