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Thousands of Children Endure ‘Horrific Conditions’ in Conflict Zones- UN Report

At least 5,242 girls and 13,663 boys were victims of grave violations in 21 country situations and one region, and at least 1,600 of those children were victims of multiple violations, the report highlights. It adds that overall, there were 23,982 verified grave violations against children, a number that remains similar to that reported in 2020 and represents an average of some 65 violations every single day.
The year 2021 saw a deadly mix of conflict escalation, military coups and takeovers, protracted and new conflicts, as well as violations of international law, all of which had a devastating impact on the protection of children around the world.

Cross-border conflict and intercommunal violence also impacted the protection of children, especially in the Lake Chad Basin and Central Sahel regions, according to the annual UN report on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), released on Monday. The report details the devastating impact that various forms of conflict had on children around the world in 2021.

At least 5,242 girls and 13,663 boys were victims of grave violations in 21 country situations and one region, and at least 1,600 of those children were victims of multiple violations, the report highlights. It adds that overall, there were 23,982 verified grave violations against children, a number that remains similar to that reported in 2020 and represents an average of some 65 violations every single day.

The killing and maiming of children was the most verified grave violation followed by the recruitment and use of children and the denial of humanitarian access.  The places where most children were affected by grave violations in 2021 were Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

For 15  per cent of those violations, perpetrators could not be identified, making subsequent accountability extremely challenging.

“There is no word strong enough to describe the horrific conditions that children in armed conflict have endured. Those who survived 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 impetus to reinforce our determination to end and prevent grave violations against children,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.

Gamba explained that boys and girls often face different risks, a factor it is important to understand when developing prevention and response strategies. 

Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ukraine have been added to the Secretary-General Annual Report as situations of concern, reflecting the dramatic impact of hostilities on children in the area. Ukraine is among new areas of concern. Two forms of violation showed a sharp increase in 2021: abduction, and sexual violence, including rape, which both rose by 20 per cent. 

Attacks on schools and hospitals also showed an increase, which was compounded by the pandemic. More than 2,800 children were detained for their actual or alleged association with parties to conflicts, making them particularly vulnerable to torture, sexual violence, and other abuses. 

Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Ukraine have been added to the Secretary-General Annual Report as situations of concern, reflecting the dramatic impact of hostilities on children in these areas.   In addition, the Secretary-General requested enhanced monitoring of violations against children in the Central Sahel Region, similar to his request for the Lake Chad Basin region in 2020.  

Amidst the catalogue of violations, progress was made in some regions. Overall, 12,214 children were released from armed forces and groups in countries including the Central African Republic, Colombia, DRC, Myanmar, and Syria. 

The Special Representative outlined the importance of providing children released from armed forces and groups with appropriate support to reintegrate into their communities.

“Parties engaged in peace processes and discussions should consider integrating the rights and needs of children into their negotiations as well as their final agreements, as it remains the only way to reach a sustainable peace”, continued Ms Gamba, hailing the current truce in Yemen’s conflict as an example.

“When peace goes missing, children are the first to pay the price of this tragic loss”, she declared. “It is more critical than ever to act to protect our children and ensure their safer and better future”.

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