UNICEF says children continue to bear the brunt of the three-year-long conflictABIDJAN, Cote D’Ivoire, 21 November 2005 – As the world celebrates the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF is calling attention to the plight of the children in Cote D’Ivoire and the continued widespread violation of their rights as a result of the ongoing three-year-long conflict.
The breakdown of family and social structures and the pervading military influence has resulted in children being denied access to education and health care and has left them vulnerable to violence, abuse and recruitment by armed groups.
“This conflict has impacted the lives everyone but especially those who are most vulnerable – the women and children,” explained UNICEF Representative to Cote D’Ivoire Youssouf Oomar. “And in particular the rights of children have not been respected.”
The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 and has been ratified by 191 countries, including Cote D’Ivoire. The Convention guarantees the rights of children to survival, protection and development.
Many of Cote D’Ivoire’s children have been denied one of the most fundamental of those rights – access to education. Because of the conflict and division of the country, the education system has been disrupted with an estimated 700,000 children out of school. In addition 60,000 children remain trapped in a state of “educational limbo” due to the suspension of national exams in the north.
Similarly health care facilities have also been impacted, especially in the northern region, putting the lives of countless children at risk.
The conflict and the resulting breakdown of family structures have also forced many children to fend for themselves, exposing them to violence and abuse. Girls in particularly remain vulnerable to sexual abuse due to lawlessness and general economic decline with many turning to prostitution as a means of survival.
In addition hundreds of children continue to be associated with armed groups and there are reports of continued recruitment and training of child soldiers in the western region of the country.
Another area of great concern is the situation in which hundreds of thousands of children have been denied the right to birth registration because of the division of the country.
The protection of children and the respect of children’s rights remains an urgent priority for UNICEF in Cote D’Ivoire. UNICEF and its partners is active in rebuilding and strengthening the country’s educational and health facilities. It is also providing assistance to thousands of children affected by the conflict as well as hundreds of children associated with armed groups.
UNICEF has been conducting awareness campaigns about the protection of children with all sides in the conflict and has also launched a countrywide public awareness campaign highlighting the right of every child to education.
However with the country still divided and because of the slow implementation of the joint United Nations and African Union peace process, there is still cause for concern for the children of Cote D’Ivoire.
“I want to call on all parties to make sure that the rights of all children are respected,” said Mr. Oomar, “and I urge them to accelerate the peace process for a unified and peaceful Cote D’Ivoire so that these children can help build a better future.”
For more information, please contact:
Bob Coen – UNICEF Cote D'Ivoire, +225-06-353637
21 November 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Bob Coen reports on UNICEF’s work to protect children affected by conflict in Côte d’Ivoire.