Thousands of Children Paid a Devastating Price In Ongoing Conflicts

Thousands of children from Afghanistan to Yemen, and from Syria to northern Utopia have paid a devastating price for continuing armed conflict, violence, inter-communal violence and insecurity, UNICEF said in its annual report on Friday.

Just last week, at least four children were reportedly among the victims as at least 35 people were killed – including two Save the Children staff members – in Kayah State in Eastern Myanmar, the report said, adding this was just the latest high-profile example of the devastating toll conflict takes on children and the ongoing threats to humanitarian workers.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said year after year, parties to conflict continue to demonstrate a dreadful disregard for the rights and wellbeing of children.

“Children are suffering, and children are dying because of this callousness. Every effort should be made to keep these children safe from harm,” Fore added. 

Verified abductions were highest in Somalia, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the countries of the Lake Chad Basin (Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger), according to the report.

Verified instances of sexual violence were highest in the DRC, Somalia and the Central African Republic, it added.

The United Nations has verified 266,000 cases of grave violations against children in more than 30 conflict situations across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America over the past 16 years, the report said. 

Afghanistan, for example, has the highest number of verified child casualties since 2005, at more than 28,500 – accounting for 27 percent of all verified child casualties globally, UNICEF added.

Meanwhile, the Middle East and North Africa region has the highest number of verified attacks on schools and hospitals since 2005, with 22 such attacks verified in the first six months of this year.

UNICEF had called on all parties to conflict,  including the 61 listed in the annexes of the 2021 Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, to commit to formal action plans and take concrete measures to protect children.

The armed groups were urged to release children from armed forces and groups, protect children from sexual violence, and stop attack on hospitals and schools.

“Ultimately, children living through war will only be safe when parties to conflict take concrete action to protect them and stop committing grave violations,” said Fore.

“As we approach the end of 2021, I call on all parties to conflict to end attacks against children, uphold their rights and strive for peaceful political resolutions to war,” Fore added.

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