World has failed to protect children in conflict in 2018: UNICEF

Widespread violations against children in conflict continue in shocking year-on-year trend

28 December 2018
death and mourning; displaced people; Emergencies; extended family; refugee;
UNICEF Bangladesh/2018/Nybo
(Centre) Fatima cries for the loss of her five-year-old nephew Din Islam who died hours earlier while crossing aboard a boat from Myanmar to Bangladesh, in Noapara, Bangladesh, Tuesday 6 February 2018. Din was among a group of 134 other Rohingya refugees who took the dangerous journey in boats to escape violence directed against the Rohingya people in Myanmar. As of 27 January 2018, the Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) reported that almost 688,000 Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh since attacks against the Rohingya escalated in late August of 2017. Per ISCG’s rapid needs assessment, 58 per cent of new arrivals are children and 60 per cent are girls and women including a high number of pregnant (3 per cent) and lactating women (7 per cent). The estimated total affected population of existing refugees, new arrivals and host communities is 1.2 million people. This includes 720,000 affected children in need of urgent humanitarian assistance including critical life-saving interventions. Existing basic services for refugees and host communities have been overwhelmed due to the sudden and massive increase in population. The high population density in the settlements has increased the risk of disease outbreaks and 1.2 million people urgently require water and sanitation services. More than 17 million litres of clean water per day are needed and approximately 50,000 latrines with semi-permanent structures need to be constructed or maintained. Vaccination coverage amongst new arrivals is very low and deadly outbreaks of communicable diseases (measles and diphtheria) have already occurred. In the densely-populated settlements, with poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, an outbreak of cholera or acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) is a risk that is being addressed in the rainy/cyclone season preparation plan. Urgent nutrition needs have been prioritized for children under five (including infants), pregnant and lactating women (PLW) and adolescent girls, with 3 per cent of children suffering from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in the biggest settlement (Kutupalong). An estimated 400,000 Rohingya children are also in need of psychosocial support and other protection and education services.

NEW YORK, 28 December 2018 – The futures of millions of children living in countries affected by armed conflict are at risk, as warring parties continue to commit grave violations against children, and world leaders fail to hold perpetrators accountable – UNICEF said today.

“Children living in conflict zones around the world have continued to suffer through extreme levels of violence over the past 12 months, and the world has continued to fail them,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes. “For too long, parties to conflict have been committing atrocities with near-total impunity, and it is only getting worse. Much more can and must be done to protect and assist children.”

Children living in countries at war have come under direct attack, have been used as human shields, killed, maimed or recruited to fight. Rape, forced marriage and abduction have become standard tactics in conflicts from Syria to Yemen, and from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to Nigeria, South Sudan and Myanmar.

Over the course of 2018:

“2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, yet today, more countries are embroiled in internal or international conflict than at any other time in the past three decades. Children living through conflict are among the least likely to be guaranteed their rights. Attacks on children must end,” Fontaine said. 

UNICEF calls on all warring parties to abide by their obligations under international law 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.

“Much more needs to be done to prevent wars, and to end the many disastrous armed conflicts devastating children’s lives. Yet even as wars continue, we must never accept attacks against children. We must hold warring parties to their obligation to protect children. Otherwise, it is children, their families and their communities who will continue to suffer the devastating consequences, for now, and for years to come,” Fontaine said.

Across all these countries, UNICEF works with partners to provide the most vulnerable children with health, nutrition, education and child protection services. For example, in October, UNICEF helped to secure the release of 833 children recruited into armed forces in northeast Nigeria, and are working with these children to reintegrate them into their communities. Since conflict broke out in South Sudan five years ago, UNICEF has reunited almost 6,000 unaccompanied and separated children with their families.  In Bangladesh, in 2018, UNICEF reached thousands of Rohingya refugee children with mental health and psychosocial support. In Iraq, UNICEF is working with partners to provide specialized services to women and children affected by gender-based violence.

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Notes for editors:

Multimedia materials available here: https://weshare.unicef.org/Package/2AMZIFI7QW8B

Find out more about UNICEF’s work for children in conflict here: uni.cf/childrenunderattack

Media Contacts

Joe English

Communications Specialist

UNICEF New York

Tel: +1 917 893 0692

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