Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Somalia are the two African countries singled out by a United Nations (UN) report on children and armed conflict where there is “devastating impact” on the younger generation.
Dangers outlined in the annual report on children and armed conflict range from conflict escalation, military coups and takeovers, through to protracted and new conflicts, as well as violations of international law. Cross-border conflict and inter-communal violence also impact protection of children, especially in the Lake Chad Basin and Central Sahel regions of Africa it notes.
The report highlights 24 000 verified “grave violations” against children, an average of 65 a day. Killing and maiming of children was the most verified grave violation followed by recruitment and use of children and denial of humanitarian access.
Places where most children were affected by grave violations in last year were Afghanistan, DRC, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
“There are no words strong enough to describe the horrific conditions children in armed conflict endured.” Virginia Gamba, UN Secretary General Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said.
“Those who survived will be affected for life with physical and emotional scars. The numbers should serve as an impetus to reinforce our determination to end and prevent grave violations against children. This report is a call to action to intensify our work to better protect children in armed conflict and ensure they have a real chance to recover and thrive”.
She pointed out boys and girls often face different risks, a factor important to understand when developing prevention and response strategies.
Two forms of violation showed a sharp increase in 2021 – abduction and sexual violence, including rape, which both rose by 20%.
Attacks on schools and hospitals also increased and were compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Close to three thousand children were detained for actual or alleged association with parties to conflict, making them vulnerable to torture, sexual violence and other abuses.
Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ukraine, were added to the report as situations of concern, reflecting the dramatic impact of hostilities on children in these areas.
Secretary General Antonio Guterres asked for enhanced monitoring of violations against children in the Central Sahel Region, similar to his request for the Lake Chad Basin region in 2020.
Among 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 (CAR), Colombia, DRC, Myanmar and Syria.
“Parties engaged in peace processes and discussions should consider integrating rights and needs of children into negotiations and final agreements as it remains the only way to reach a sustainable peace,”Gamba said pointing to the current truce in the Yemen conflict as an example.