It’s a dangerous time to be a child. According to UNICEF’s 2014 year-end report, 15 million children are trapped in six major conflicts in the Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, the State of Palestine, Syria and Ukraine. And that’s not counting the effects of recent bombings in Yemen, or of slow burning crises in places like Afghanistan and Nigeria. Worldwide, seven million children now live as refugees. ”Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable brutality,” wrote UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake.
And yet, as attests this series of images contributed by photographers from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, some children continue to play—on, over and around the wreckage of war. Conflict colors their games in surprising ways: while a pair of Ukrainian boys mimic the adults around them in a game of soldiers versus rebels, Syrian teens transform a bomb crater into an innocent swimming hole.