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  • A Kurdish refugee boy from the Syrian town of Kobani sticks his hand out of a tent in a refugee camp in the border town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province.

    A Kurdish refugee boy from the Syrian town of Kobani sticks his hand out of a tent in a refugee camp in the border town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province. | Photo: Reuters

"Globally one in 11 children aged six or younger has spent the most critical period of brain development growing up in conflict," according to UNICEF.

Nearly 87 million children around the world under seven years old have been growing up in conflict zones, putting their development at risk, the United Nations Children's Fund informed Thursday.

Exposure to extreme trauma may hinder the development of brain cell connections, essential for health, emotional well-being and ability to learn, UNICEF said.

"In addition to the immediate physical threats that children in crises face, they are also at risk of deep-rooted emotional scars," Pia Britto, UNICEF chief of early child development, said in a statement.

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"Conflict robs children of their safety, family and friends, play and routine."

"Yet these are all elements of childhood that give children the best possible chance of developing fully and learning effectively, enabling them to contribute to their economies and societies, and building strong and safe communities when they reach adulthood."

“During the first seven years of life a child’s brain has the potential to activate 1,000 brain cells every second. Each one of those cells, known as neurons, has the power to connect to another 10,000 neurons thousands of times per second,” UNICEF said.

This, however, largely depends on early childhood development such as breastfeeding, learning opportunities and a chance to grow up in a safe environment, it said.

Extreme trauma puts children at risk of living in a state of toxic stress inhibiting brain cell connections, with lifelong consequences to their cognitive, social and physical development, UNICEF said.

 

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