Serious violations of children’s rights in conflicts are increasing around the world, warns UNICEF

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Serious violations of children’s rights in conflicts are increasing around the world, warns UNICEF

NEW YORK – This year has brought with it a stream of serious violations against children in both protracted and new conflicts, UNICEF warned today.

From Afghanistan to Yemen, and Syria to northern Ethiopia, thousands of children paid a devastating price when armed conflict, violence between municipalities and insecurity continued. Last week alone, at least four children were among the victims when at least 35 people were killed – including two Save the Children staff – in the state of Kayah in eastern Myanmar. This was just the latest high-profile example of the devastating toll conflict affecting children and the ongoing threats to humanitarian workers.

“Year after year, the parties to the conflict continue to show a terrible disregard for children’s rights and well – being,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s Executive Director. “Children suffer and children die because of this numbness. Every effort should be made to keep these children safe from harm.”

Although data for 2021 are not yet available, in 2020 26,425 serious violations of children were verified by the UN. The first three months of 2021 saw a slight decrease in the total number of verified serious violations, but verified cases of abduction and sexual violence continued to increase at an alarming rate – by more than 50 and 10 percent, respectively – compared with the first quarter last year.

The verified abductions were highest in Somalia, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the countries of the Lake Chad Basin (Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger.) Verified cases of sexual violence were highest in the DRC, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.

This year marks 25 years since the publication of the prestigious Graça Machel report “The Impact of War on Children”, which called on the international community to take concrete action to protect children from the scourge of war and called on the UN and the global community to take action to protect children. .

The UN has verified 266,000 cases of serious child abuse in more than 30 conflict situations in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America over the past 16 years. These are just the cases verified by the UN-led monitoring and reporting mechanism, set up in 2005 to systematically document the most serious violations against children in conflict areas. The true numbers will be much higher.

Afghanistan, for example, has the highest number of verified child victims since 2005, at more than 28,500 – which accounts for 27 percent of all verified child victims globally. At the same time, the Middle East and North Africa region has the highest number of verified attacks on schools and hospitals since 2005, with 22 such attacks verified in the first six months of this year.

In October, UNICEF announced that 10,000 children had been killed or maimed in Yemen since the fighting escalated in March 2015, equivalent to four children each day.

Away from the headlines, the UN has verified violations in countries such as Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Libya, Mozambique and the Philippines.

Despite decades of advocacy with parties to the conflict and those affecting them, as well as improved monitoring, reporting and response mechanisms for serious violations of rights, children continue to bear the brunt of the war. Every day, girls and boys living in areas under conflict are exposed to unspeakable horrors that no human should ever experience.

The use of explosive weapons, especially in populated areas, is a persistent and growing threat to children and their families. By 2020, explosive weapons and explosive remnants were responsible for almost 50 percent of all child casualties, resulting in more than 3,900 children being killed and maimed. Explosive weapons can have fatal and long-lasting effects on children, including disruption of services necessary for their survival.

In many cases, children fall victim to several serious violations of rights. In 2020, for example, 37% of abductions verified by the UN led to the recruitment and use of children in war, with cases exceeding 50% in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

UNICEF calls on all parties to the conflict – including the 61 listed in the annexes to the Secretary – General’s 2021 Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict – to commit to formal action plans and take concrete action to protect children. These include preventing serious violations in the first place, releasing children from armed forces and groups, protecting children from sexual violence and stopping attacks on hospitals and schools.

Only 37 such plans have been signed by the parties to the conflict since 2005 – a shockingly low number given the efforts of children.

“Ultimately, children living through war will only be safe when the parties to the conflict take concrete action to protect them and stop committing serious violations,” Fore said. “As we approach the end of 2021, I urge all parties to the conflict to stop attacks on children, uphold their rights and strive for peaceful political solutions to war.”

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