This year I've travelled to some pretty difficult places. My work has taken me to war-torn Central African Republic (CAR) and to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in Africa. I have also travelled to the border of Serbia and Macedonia where I met refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria, Iraq and Somalia. In particular, I remember meeting children far too familiar with the sound of gunfire.
Last year one of my visits to the Central African Republic (CAR) ended in an evacuation across the river into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as intense fighting shook Bangui, the capital city where we were. The night after we crossed the river we could clearly see and hear the artillery shells and the explosions in Bangui, wondering about the fate of the people still there and the future of the country.
Since their first deployment in 1948, the blue helmets of UN peacekeepers have come to symbolise hope, safety and impartiality. Thousands of courageous men and women from countries all around the world have dedicated themselves to serving the cause of international peace. Over the years they have worked tirelessly to support those countries and communities attempting to reconcile and rebuild after horrific conflicts.
The international response to what took place and what continues to take place is both a travesty and injustice. Hundreds of thousands of Innocent men, women and children fled to neighbouring countries such as Chad and Cameroon but more than 600,000 people remain displaced inside the country with many trapped inside enclaves they cannot escape.
Conflict in the Middle East and the emergence of ISIL has led to the displacement of millions who seek sanctuary from violence. It was right that world leaders turned their attentions to this human tragedy. However, although Middle East conflicts have reached our own borders in a dramatic manner, we should not forget the horrors of violence further afield.
Abandoned half-built buildings, abandoned half-destroyed buildings and slums form the bulk of the cityscape of Goma, on the border with Rwanda. Nothing works. Corruption, power outages, and impassable roads - and the palpable threat of chaos - are part of daily life. One in six children born today in the Democratic Republic of Congo won't live to see their fifth birthday. Since the outbreak of fighting in 1998 almost three million children have died here. Within these dire conditions I saw the extraordinary work of War Child and met children who, despite every element working against them, astonished me with their warmth, intelligence, determination and desire to learn and build a better life.
This week has seen a flurry of activity around an issue that for far too long has been forgotten, silenced or viewed as an inevitable consequence of war: sexual violence in conflict. All of this is extremely important - but in the rush to 'do something' about the horrific crimes being committed in Syria, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and other conflict zones, we should not forget some basic premises.
Lots of great stuff to take your fancy on our frontpage today, leading with Rob Williams, chief exec of War Child UK on how the forgotten crisis in the Central African Republic, David Mellor on why the England squad needs John Terry, Richard Branson on looking after your staff and artist Stella Vine on the inspirational joys of the countryside...
A new War Child report, released this week, marks exactly a year since a coup sent the Central African Republic (CAR), a country mired in protracted emergency, spiralling into even deeper crisis. We are also two weeks away from the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide - a tragedy which robust peacekeeping could have prevented. If you think this could never happen again, have a look at CAR, where children as young as three years old have been raped and left with horrific injuries. Other children have been killed, maimed and even beheaded.