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Innocent victims of an ethnic war

Bosnia and Herzegovina was once a part of the former Yugoslavia . It was a southern European land of rivers and mountains to which holidaymakers would return time and again to bask in the Mediterranean sunshine.

Then came 1992, and three years of brutal inter-ethnic fighting ripped the country apart. The conflict, between Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs, had its roots in the fear of Serb expansionism and dominance.

The Yugoslav wars ended with Bosnia 's infrastructure and economy in tatters. Poverty and instability were the legacy of the bloodiest conflicts in Europe since 1945. An estimated 300,000 died, women were systematically raped and killed, and millions driven from their homes.

After the Dayton Peace Agreement brought an end to the war and divided the country along ethnic lines - Republica Serbska and a Muslim-Croat Federation - many protagonists were subsequently charged with war crimes.

Around two million people - about half the population - were displaced and unable to return to their homes in safety. The truly innocent victims of the carnage were Bosnia 's children - around 35,000 were orphaned by the bloody conflict.

These abandoned children turned to Bosnia 's under-resourced orphanages, some of which took in seven times their official capacity at the height of the war. The situation was exacerbated by Bosnia's ‘rape babies' - children with no family and no birth certificate born to mothers who rejected them after falling pregnant to Serbs intent on muddying the ethnic pool. Some suffer terrible trauma because of the hatred the mother bears for the father.

Ten years on, Bosnia is still in recovery. Unemployment is high and government handouts paltry. Education has suffered, with schools still segregated by ethnicity, lacking basic resources and stocked with nationalist textbooks.

The need is for better schools, more orphanages and the hope of a future for Bosnia 's children to cling on to.

 
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