Children under attack at shocking scale in conflicts around the world
by Save the Children, UN Children''s Fund
One in six children globally living in areas impacted by conflict. (Save the Children)
More children than ever before—at least 357 million globally—are now living in areas affected by conflict, a new report by Save the Children reveals.
The War on Children: Time to End Violations Against Children in Armed Conflict shows this number has increased by 75 per cent since the early 1990s, with one in six children globally now living in impacted areas.
Nearly half of these children are in areas affected by high-intensity conflict where they could be vulnerable to the UN’s six grave violations—killing and maiming, recruitment and use of children, sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian assistance.
The report shows there are significant gaps in child and gender-specific data in conflicts that need to be addressed by improved monitoring and reporting mechanisms. Despite this, some trends are clear—and deeply worrying.
Since 2010, the number of UN-verified cases of children being killed and maimed has gone up by almost 300 per cent, while incidents of denial of humanitarian access have skyrocketed by more than 1,500 per cent. The widespread stigma around rape and sexual assault means it is an especially under-reported aspect of conflict, but it is clear that this issue remains prevalent and that both girls and boys are at risk.
This has been fuelled by a growing disregard for the rules of war, and indiscriminate violence in countries like Syria, South Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan.
The War on Children report attributes the worsening situation to the increasing urbanisation of war, the growing use of explosive weapons in populated areas, as well as the protracted and more complex nature of modern conflict that has put children and civilians on the front lines. It also reveals that:
Brutal tactics are increasingly used to target children in warfare—including the use of children as suicide bombers, direct targeting of schools and hospitals and the widespread use of indiscriminate weapons like cluster munitions, barrel bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia were the most dangerous conflict-affected countries to be a child in 2016.
Children in the Middle East are most likely to be living in a conflict zone, with two in five children in that region living in a conflict-affected area—the highest rate globally.
Africa is second, with 1 in 5 children affected by conflict. Asia has the highest overall number of children affected by conflict.
Save the Children International CEO, Helle Thorning Schmidt, said: “We are seeing a shocking increase in the number of children growing up in areas affected by conflict, and being exposed to the most serious forms of violence imaginable.
“Children are suffering things that no child ever should; from sexual violence to being used as suicide bombers. Their homes, schools and playgrounds have become battlefields.
“Crimes like this against children are the darkest kind of abuse imaginable, and are a flagrant violation of international law. World leaders must do more to hold perpetrators accountable.
“This failure to protect children in conflict not only robs them, but also their countries—and the entire world—of a better future.
“We face a stark choice. Will we stand by while more children die at their school desks and in their hospital beds, are denied life-saving aid or are recruited into armed groups? Or will we tackle the culture of impunity and end the ‘war on children’ for good?”
Save the Children is calling on states, militaries, and all actors with influence over the lives of children in conflict to commit to practical actions on four key themes:
Preventing children being put at risk: Investments need to be made in conflict-prevention initiatives and peacekeeping, and training for military forces on child protection.
Upholding international laws and standards: All states and actors should abide by their commitments under international law, and should endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and Paris Commitments & Paris Principles.[iii] States and armed groups must commit to avoiding the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
Holding violators to account: We urgently need stronger monitoring and reporting mechanisms to properly track civilian harm and child casualties, and stronger justice systems that address violations of children’s rights in conflict.
Rebuilding shattered lives: We must put children at the centre of reconstruction efforts and invest in support for children affected by conflict, including providing appropriate mental health care for children, training local mental health and social workers and assisting children with disabilities.
Funding for the rebuilding of children’s lives wrecked by conflict must also be made available. http://bit.ly/2tkB4LG
Children under attack at shocking scale in conflicts around the world, says UNICEF.
Children in conflict zones around the world have come under attack at a shocking scale throughout the year, UNICEF warned today, with parties to conflicts blatantly disregarding international laws designed to protect the most vulnerable.
“Children are being targeted and exposed to attacks and brutal violence in their homes, schools and playgrounds,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes. “As these attacks continue year after year, we cannot become numb. Such brutality cannot be the new normal.”
In conflicts around the world, children have become frontline targets, used as human shields, killed, maimed and recruited to fight. Rape, forced marriage, abduction and enslavement have become standard tactics in conflicts from Iraq, Syria and Yemen, to Nigeria, South Sudan and Myanmar.
In some contexts, children abducted by extremist groups experience abuse yet again upon release when they are detained by security forces. Millions more children are paying an indirect price for these conflicts, suffering from malnutrition, disease and trauma as basic services – including access to food, water, sanitation and health – are denied, damaged or destroyed in the fighting.
Over the course of 2017:
In Afghanistan, almost 700 children were killed in the first 9 months of the year.
In the Central African Republic, after months of renewed fighting, a dramatic increase in violence saw children being killed, raped, abducted and recruited by armed groups.
In the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, violence has driven 850,000 children from their homes, while more than 200 health centres and 400 schools were attacked. An estimated 350,000 children have suffered from severe acute malnutrition.
In northeast Nigeria and Cameroon, Boko Haram has forced at least 135 children to act as suicide bombers, almost five times the number in 2016.
In Iraq and Syria, children have reportedly been used as human shields, trapped under siege, targeted by snipers and lived through intense bombardment and violence.
In Myanmar, Rohingya children suffered and witnessed shocking and widespread violence as they were attacked and driven from their homes in Rakhine state; while children in remote border areas of Kachin, Shan, and Kayin states continued to suffer the consequences of ongoing tensions between the Myanmar Armed Forces and various ethnic armed groups.
In South Sudan, where conflict and a collapsing economy led to a famine declaration in parts of the country, more than 19,000 children have been recruited into armed forces and armed groups, and over 2,300 children have been killed or injured since the conflict first erupted in December 2013.
In Somalia, 1,740 cases of child recruitment were reported in the first 10 months of 2017.
In Yemen, nearly 1,000 days of fighting left at least 5,000 children dead or injured, according to verified data, with actual numbers expected to be much higher. More than 11 million children need humanitarian assistance. Out of 1.8 million children suffering from malnutrition, 385,000 are severely malnourished and at risk of death if not urgently treated.
UNICEF calls on all parties to conflict to abide by their obligations under international law to immediately end violations against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals.
UNICEF also calls on States with influence over parties to conflict to use that influence to protect children. Across all these countries, UNICEF works with partners to provide the most vulnerable children with health, nutrition, education and child protection services. http://uni.cf/2zFzSjZ
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South Sudan famine threat: All parties to the conflict must reach and stick to a peace agreement
by Unicef, Save the Children International, agencies
19 Jan. 2018
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore following her recent visit to conflict-ravaged South Sudan:
“I have just spent a few days in South Sudan where I saw how four years of a man-made conflict have left children sick, hungry and on the brink of death.
“The impact of the relentless violence has been devastating. I met a mother who had to walk for days to get treatment for her malnourished baby. I spoke with a young boy who was forced to join an armed group at the age of 10..
“Humanitarian agencies are working in dangerous conditions to provide children and young people with their basic needs. This is no easy task. South Sudan is the most dangerous place in the world for humanitarians – 28 aid workers were killed last year alone. Last year, working with partners, we vaccinated 1.8 million children against measles, treated more 180,000 children against severe acute malnutrition, and helped 300,000 children access education.
“But this is far from enough. The fighting shows no sign of abating and the humanitarian needs are massive: 2.4 million children have been forced to flee their homes. More than a quarter of a million children are severely malnourished and at imminent risk of death. Over 19,000 children have been recruited into the conflict. At least 1 in 3 schools has been damaged, destroyed, occupied or closed. And we have documented numerous cases of sexual violence against children.
“The numbers go on and on. Together they equal an entire generation of young people denied the opportunities they so desperately need to contribute to building their society.
“As we enter the dry season, the needs – and threats – will only continue to grow. We are already seeing an increase in the number of children and families seeking help in displacement camps and we are concerned that our funding is not keeping pace.
“Only an end to hostilities can bring back hope and safety to the children and young people of South Sudan. Until then, we need unconditional, sustainable access from parties to the conflict and more resources from donors. Without these, the lives and futures of millions of children in South Sudan will continue to hang in the balance.” http://www.unicef.org/southsudan/
Almost a year after famine was declared in Unity State, South Sudan remains trapped in a vicious cycle of starvation and disease, with the UN grimly predicting renewed famine in early 2018.
Today, [22 November] Save the Children has issued a ‘final warning’ call for urgent humanitarian assistance to prevent children from dying unnecessarily of hunger and preventable disease. Malnutrition has soared, especially among children. More than 1.1 million children under five are forecast to be malnourished in 2018, double the number predicted at the same time last year. Some 300,000 of them are on the verge of death by starvation.
The new UN Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan today called for free and unhindered access for aid agencies. The need to safely deliver life-saving food and medical supplies remains urgent. Millions of people across South Sudan will rely on aid to survive in 2018. Any reduction in official numbers does not reflect a reduced need. The figures for those reliant on aid to survive look lower because 2.1 million people have fled the country, 63% of them children.
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children International, said:
“We cannot stand by and watch South Sudan descend into famine again. This is the final alarm call. Famine is always man-made and we must be clear that this looming famine is not climate-related. Four years of violence have impeded aid agencies’access to deliver food to starving communities. All parties to the conflict must reach and stick to a peace agreement.
“It has been proven time and time again that it’s cheaper to prevent a famine than to respond to one. We cannot wait for images of famine to hit the news before we can afford to help the children of South Sudan.”
The "lean season" - when households run short of food before the next harvest - is forecast to start in January, three months earlier than usual. Food prices have soared, with prices for sacks of staples such as sorghum, maize and wheat flour up by 281% compared with the same time last year.
Of the two million people who have fled the country, one million gave gone into Uganda alone. There, World Food Programme (WFP) cuts are reported to be forcing hungry families to return to South Sudan as they are not receiving bare minimum meals in underfunded camps.
South Sudan is statistically the seventh worst place in the world to be a child. Half the children are not in school. A fifth of girls are married before they’re 14, meaning their bodies are not developed enough to cope with childbirth. The country has one of the worst records in the world for mothers dying in childbirth.
The UN has long documented instances of rape and sexual violence as a widespread weapon of war. Children arriving in Uganda have given deeply disturbing testimony to Save the Children staff.
Deng* a 7 year old boy who has fled to Uganda, said: “I really really want to go to where my mother is. I miss my mother. I’m scared my mother is dead because we don’t know where she is. We got separated when we were running from the people fighting. They were killing everyone. I don’t know why people are fighting. I was so scared when I saw the people fighting and I saw dead bodies lying on the ground everywhere.”
Joy*, a 14 year old girl who also fled to Uganda, said: “We ran away because the war has turned up on us as civilians. When they come, they come to slaughter you with a knife or a machete. We could not wait for that to happen”.
Joan*, a midwife, in the same Ugandan refugee camp, who cares for Joy,* said: “When the armed groups come to the village they would rape young girls.Ten men can sleep with one woman, no problem if you die. They came and killed people and left them by the roadside, some slaughtered (with a knife to the throat). What I have seen in South Sudan now is like nothing I have seen before. They used not to kill women; now they are killing women, children and the elderly”.
*names changed to protect identity.
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