NEW YORK, 30 December 2019 – Children continue to pay a deadly price as conflicts rage around the world, UNICEF said today. Since the start of the decade, the United Nations has verified more than 170,000 grave violations against children in conflict – the equivalent of more than 45 violations every day for the last 10 years.
The number of countries experiencing conflict is the highest it has been 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 from their homes.
“Conflicts around the world are lasting longer, causing more bloodshed and claiming more young lives,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “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.”
In 2018, the UN verified more than 24,000 grave violations 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.
More than 12,000 children were killed or maimed in 2018. 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.
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.
- In January, violence, displacement and extremely harsh winter conditions in northern and eastern Syria killed at least 32 children.
- In February, there were several violent attacks against Ebola treatment centres in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, with attacks continuing throughout the year.
- In March, more than 150 people, including 85 children were killed in an attack by an armed group on the village of Ogossagou in the Mopti region of central Mali, with a further attack on Sobanou-Kou killing another 24 children.
- In April, 14 children were killed and 16 critically injured by a blast near two schools in Sana’a, Yemen, where one in five schools can no longer be used as a direct result of the conflict.
- In May, UNICEF called on Governments to repatriate children who are their nationals or born to their nationals and who were stranded in camps and detention centres in northeast Syria. Nearly 28,000 foreign children from more than 60 different countries, including almost 20,000 from Iraq, remain trapped in the northeast. In the same month, there were reports of children killed and injured in an escalation of violence in Rakhine State in Myanmar.
- In June, three children were used to detonate explosives that killed 30 people and injured 48 others at a community football viewing centre in Konduga, Borno, Nigeria. In the first two weeks of June, at least 19 children were reportedly killed amidst protests in Sudan with another 49 injured.
- In July, scores of children were 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.
- In a single weekend in August, 44 civilians were reportedly killed due to air strikes in northwest Syria, including 16 children and 12 women.
- In September, UNICEF reported that 2 million children remain out of school in Yemen, including almost half a million who dropped out since the conflict escalated in March 2015.
- In October, an escalation of violence in northeast Syria killed 5 children and injured 26 children. This brought the number of children killed in Syria in the first 9 months of the year to 657 children and that of children injured to 324.
- In November, UNICEF said that three years of violence and instability in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon have left more than 855,000 children out of school and displaced 59,000 adolescents.
- In early December, 5 children were killed when gunmen opened fire inside a place of worship in Burkina Faso. In eastern Ukraine, where nearly half a million children are affected by the conflict, 36 attacks on schools were reported this year, including one school being damaged 15 times.
- And in mid-December, UNICEF said in Afghanistan, an average of nine children were killed or maimed every day in the first nine months of 2019.
UNICEF calls on all warring parties to abide by their obligations under international law and to immediately end violations against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and water infrastructure. UNICEF also calls on states with influence over parties to conflict to use that influence to protect children.
Across all these countries, UNICEF works with partners to provide the most vulnerable children with health, nutrition, education and child protection services.
The six grave violations are: Killing and maiming of children; Recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups; Sexual violence against children; Attacks against schools or hospitals; Abduction of children; and denial of humanitarian access for children.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.