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Worst year for loss and injury of children in war

16 August 2019


A three-year-old Syrian girl lies in intensive care at a Syrian Medical Society hospital in Idlib, last month, after she was injured by an airstrike

A three-year-old Syrian girl lies in intensive care at a Syrian Medical Society hospital in Idlib, last month, after she was injured by an airstrike

LAST year was the worst year since records began for the number of children killed or injured in armed conflict, the United Nations has revealed: 12,000 children were maimed or killed in 20 different conflicts around the world.

The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, said that he was “appalled” by the figure, which is the highest since records of violence against children began, in 2001.

In Afghanistan, 3062 children were killed or maimed, representing 28 per cent of all civilian casualties. In Syria, there were 1854 child casualties, and, in Yemen, 1689.

Children are also recruited to fight in conflicts, particularly in Somalia, Nigeria, and Syria: some 7000 were drawn into frontline fighting around the world during 2018. Children also continue to be abducted, or to be used in hostilities or for sexual violence: more than half the 2500 reported cases of child abduction were in Somalia.

The figures have been published in the UN’s annual report. In total, last year, the UN recorded more than 24,000 grave violations against children, including killing, maiming, sexual violence, abductions, recruitment, and attacks on schools and hospitals.

“It is immensely sad that children continue to be disproportionately affected by armed conflict, and it is horrific to see them killed and maimed as a result of hostilities,” the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, said. “Parties to conflict must protect children and put in place tangible measures to end and prevent these violations.”

The annual report includes two lists: one of parties to armed conflict who have put in place measures aimed at improving child protection; and one for parties who have not put in place measures to protect children. Some human-rights charities have argued that the lists are selective, and fail to mention violations by some state actors.

The children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, Jo Becker, said: “The UN secretary-general simply refuses to hold to account all warring parties that have inflicted tremendous suffering on children. By listing selected violators, but not others, secretary-general Guterres is ignoring the UN’s own evidence and undermining efforts to protect children in conflict.”

Human Rights Watch says that those not listed include the Israel Defense Forces, the Afghan National Army, and the US-led international forces in Afghanistan, despite evidence of violations by these parties.

The report also shows a rise in the number of children released from armed groups: 2253 children were separated from armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 833 in Nigeria, and 785 in the Central African Republic.

The UN Security Council has called for increased funding to help reintegrate children from conflict.

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