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2010-2019: A deadly decade for children in conflict areas

  • Published at 10:47 pm December 31st, 2019
Children wait as members of Turkey-backed forces form a cordon to control a crowd of displaced Syrians gathering to receive aid provided by the Turkish Red Crescent on October 19, 2019, in the Syrian border town of of Tal Abyad AFP

There was more than 170,000 verified attacks on children in conflict-affected areas in the last 10 years, according to the UN body

Children paid a deadly price as conflicts raged around the world between 2010 and 2019, with more than 45 cases of grave violations of child rights reported every day throughout the decade, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said.

There was more than 170,000 verified attacks on children in conflict-affected areas in the last 10 years, according to the UN body.

The number of countries experiencing conflict was the highest in 2010-19 since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, with dozens of violent armed conflicts killing and maiming children and forcing them out of their homes, said a statement by Unicef issued on Monday. 

“Conflicts around the world are lasting longer, causing more bloodshed and claiming more young lives,” Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in the statement. 

“Attacks on children continue unabated as warring parties flout one of the most basic rules of war: the protection of children. For every act of violence against children that creates headlines and cries of outrage, there are many more that go unreported,” she added. 

In 2018, the UN verified more than 24,000 cases of grave violence against children, including killing, maiming, sexual violence, abductions, denial of humanitarian access, child recruitment and attacks on schools and hospitals. 

“While monitoring and reporting efforts have been strengthened, this number is more than two-and-a-half times higher than that recorded in 2010,” Unicef said in its statement, adding that over 12,000 children were killed or maimed in 2018 alone.

“Continued, widespread use of airstrikes and explosive weapons such as landmines, mortars, improvised explosive devices, rocket attacks, cluster munitions and artillery shelling cause the vast majority of child casualties in armed conflict,” the statement said.

Attacks and violence against children have not let up throughout 2019. During the first half of the year, the UN has verified over 10,000 such violations against children, although actual numbers are likely to be much higher.  

With the statement, Unicef called on all warring parties to abide by their obligations under international law and to immediately end violence against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and water infrastructure. 

Unicef also called on states with influence over parties to conflict to use that influence to protect children.

Major incidents of 2019

* January: 32 children killed in northern and eastern Syria due to violence, displacement and an extremely harsh winter

* February: Several violent attacks on Ebola treatment centres in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with attacks continuing throughout the year

* March: 85 children among more than 150 killed in an attack by an armed group in the village of Ogossagou in central Mali; another attack on Sobanou-Kou village kills 24 more children

* April: 14 children killed, 16 critically injured by a blast near two schools in Sana’a, Yemen

* May: Unicef calls on governments to repatriate children who are their nationals or born to their nationals and who were stranded in camps and detention centres in north-east Syria. Nearly 28,000 foreign children from more than 60 different countries, including almost 20,000 from Iraq, remained trapped in the north-east. In the same month, there were reports of children killed and injured in an escalation of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

* June: 3 children are exploited and used by an armed group to detonate explosives that killed 30 people and injured 48 others at a community football viewing centre in Nigeria. In the first two weeks of June, at least 19 children were reportedly killed amid protests in Sudan, with another 49 injured

* July: Scores of children injured by a deadly blast that damaged a school in Kabul, Afghanistan. Later that month, 32 children were released from armed opposition groups in northern South Sudan, but Unicef estimates that thousands of children are still used by armed forces and armed groups in the country

* August: 16 children among 44 civilians reportedly killed due to airstrikes in northwest Syria in a single week

* September: 2,000,000 children remain out of school in Yemen, including almost 500,000 who dropped out since the conflict escalated in March 2015. In Afghanistan, 9 children killed or maimed every day on average in the first 9 months of 2019

* October: An escalation of violence in north-east Syria kills 5 children and injures 26. This brought the number of children killed in Syria in the first 9 months of the year to 657, and 324 injured

* November: More than 855,000 children out of school and 59,000 adolescents displaced inthree years of violence and instability in the north-west and south-west regions of Cameroon

* December: 5 children killed as gunmen open fire inside a place of worship in Burkina Faso early in the month. In eastern Ukraine, where nearly 500,000 children are affected by the conflict, 36 attacks on schools were reported this year, including one school being damaged 15 times