Children and armed conflict

What are we doing to our children?

I repeat:

What are we doing to our children?

The following paragraphs, taken from section IIA of an advance copy of the UN “Report of the Secretary-General on Children and armed conflict”, show how a great number of children were being treated (in the period January to December 2018). It makes disturbing reading.

II. Addressing the impact of armed conflict on children

A. Overview of the situation of children and armed conflict

5. Continued fighting between parties to conflict, new conflict dynamics and operational tactics, combined with widespread disregard for international law, had a devastating effect on children in 2018. More than 24,000 grave violations against children were verified by the United Nations in 20 country situations. (The use of the term “grave violations” or “violations” refer to each individual child affected by recruitment and use, killing and maiming, sexual violence and abductions, while the number of incidents is used for attacks on schools and hospitals and the denial of humanitarian access.) While the number of violations attributed to non-State actors remained steady, there was an alarming increase in the number of violations attributed to State actors and to international forces compared with 2017 (see A/72/865-S/2018/465).

6. Verified cases of the killing and maiming of children reached record levels globally since the creation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict pursuant to Security Council resolution 1612 (2005). In Afghanistan, the number of child casualties remained the highest such number in the present report (3,062) and children accounted for 28 per cent of all civilian casualties. In the Syrian Arab Republic, air strikes, barrel bombs and cluster munitions resulted in 1,854 child casualties, and in Yemen, 1,689 children bore the brunt of ground fighting and other offensives.

7. Some 13,600 children benefited from release and reintegration worldwide. However, children continued to be forced to take an active part in hostilities, including to carry out suicide bombings against civilians. Others were used in support roles, for example as sexual slaves or as human shields. Somalia remained the country with the highest number of cases of the recruitment and use of children (2,300) followed by Nigeria (1,947).

8. Attacks on schools and hospitals had a devastating effect on access to education and to health services for thousands of children, with a total of 1,023 verified attacks. In the Syrian Arab Republic, 2018 witnessed the highest numbers of attacks on schools and medical facilities (225) recorded since the beginning of the conflict. In Afghanistan, schools and hospitals (254) were increasingly targeted. Increased numbers of attacks were also verified in the Central African Republic, Colombia, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, the Sudan and Yemen.

9. In 2018, 933 cases of sexual violence against children were verified. The highest verified figures for violations relating to sexual violence continue to be documented in Somalia (331) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (277). Cases of violations relating to sexual violence remained significantly underreported, in particular when perpetrated against boys, owing to stigma, the lack of services and concerns for the protection of victims (for more information, see the annual report on conflict-related sexual violence, S/2019/280). Impunity for sexual violence against girls and boys by parties to conflict remained endemic.

10. Some 2,493 children were abducted in 2018. The highest numbers were verified in Somalia (1,609), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (367) and Nigeria (180). Increased numbers of abductions were verified in South Sudan (109), the Syrian Arab Republic (69), the Central African Republic (62), the Sudan (22) and the Philippines (13). Children were abducted from homes, schools and public spaces by parties to conflict, often as a precursor to other grave violations, notably recruitment and use, and sexual abuse, including sexual slavery, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and the Syrian Arab Republic.

11. In times of armed conflict, throughout the world, millions of people, children foremost among them, have inadequate access to or have been denied assistance that is essential for their survival and well-being. In 2018, only 795 incidents of denial of humanitarian access could be verified, compared with 1,213 in 2017. The decrease could be explained by restricted access to information, rather than an improvement of the situation. The shrinking of humanitarian space translated into widespread insecurity, severe and persistent constraints on humanitarian access, threats and the perpetration of violence against humanitarian personnel and civilian infrastructure, thereby preventing child protection actors and humanitarian actors from gaining access to information.

Below you can view a briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

What are we doing to our children?