Thousands of children endure ‘horrific conditions’ in conflict zones: UN report |
The dangers outlined in the report include conflict escalation, military coups and annexations, protracted and new conflicts, as well as violations of international law. Cross-border conflict and violence between communities also affect the protection of children, especially in the Lake Chad Basin and Central Sahel regions.
The report highlights nearly 24,000 verified serious violations against children, averaging around 65 violations per day. The killing and abuse of children was the most verified serious offense, followed by the recruitment and use of children and the denial of humanitarian access.
The places where most children will be affected by serious violations in 2021 are Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
© Paddy Dowling
Scars for life
“There are no words strong enough to describe the terrible conditions that children in armed conflict endure,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba. .
“Survivors will be affected for life with deep physical and emotional scars. But we must not let these numbers discourage our efforts. They should serve as an incentive to strengthen our resolve to end and prevent serious violations of children. This report is a call to action to strengthen our work to better protect children in armed conflict and ensure that they have a real chance to recover and thrive.”
Ms. Gamba explained that boys and girls often face different risks, an important factor to understand when developing prevention and response strategies.
UNMISS / Nektarios Markogiannis
Ukraine among new areas of concern
Two types of violations show strong increases in 2021: kidnapping and sexual violence, including rape, both increase by 20%.
Attacks on schools and hospitals also show an increase, plus the pandemic. More than 2,800 children have been detained for fact or alleged links to conflict parties, making them particularly vulnerable to torture, sexual violence and other abuses.
Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ukraine, which have been added to the Secretary-General’s Annual Report as situations of concern, reflect the powerful impact of hostile acts on children in these regions.
In addition, the Secretary-General requested increased monitoring of violations against children in the Central Sahel Region, similar to his request for the Lake Chad Basin region by 2020.
© Paddy Dowling
‘Peace must prevail’
Amid the list of violations, progress has been made in several areas. Overall, 12,214 children were released from armed forces and groups in countries including Central African Republic, Colombia, DRC, Myanmar and Syria.
The Special Representative highlighted the importance of providing children liberated from the armed forces and appropriate support groups for their reintegration into their communities.
“Parties involved in peace processes and discussions should consider integrating the rights and needs of children into their negotiations and eventual agreements, as that is still the way to go. only to achieve a lasting peace,” continued Gamba, praising the current ceasefire in the Yemen Conflict as an example.
“When peace is lost, children are the first to pay the price of this tragic loss,” she declared. “It is more important than ever to take action to protect our children and ensure their safer and better future.”