New York, 27 June 2018 – The number of children affected by armed conflict and the severity of grave violations affecting them increased in the past year, concludes the annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict released today.
“The report details the unspeakable violence children have been faced with, and shows how in too many conflict situations, parties to conflict have an utter disregard for any measures that could contribute to shielding the most vulnerable from the impact of war,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba, declared.
Over 21,000 grave violations of children’s rights have been verified by the United Nations from January to December 2017, an unacceptable increase from previous years (15,500 in 2016).
The crises unfolding in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen brought about serious increases in verified grave violations. In Syria, children have suffered the highest number of verified violations ever recorded in the country. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, crises in the Kasais led to an eight-fold increase of attacks on schools and hospitals (515). In a despicable trend, almost half of the 881 verified child casualties in Nigeria resulted from suicide attacks, including the use of children as human bombs.
Over 10,000 children were killed or maimed in 2017 with numbers growing substantially in Iraq and Myanmar, while remaining unacceptably high in Afghanistan and Syria.
“When your own house or your school can be attacked without qualms, when traditional safe-havens become targets, how can boys and girls escape the brutality of war?,” Virginia Gamba, declared. “This shows a blatant disregard for international law by parties to conflict, making civilians, especially children, increasingly vulnerable to violence, use and abuse,” she added.
Protracted and New Crises Heavily Impacted Children
In South Sudan, violence against children continued unabated with 1,221 children verified recruited and used. Rape and other forms of sexual violence against children remained disturbingly high with over 900 verified cases against boys and girls
The number of children detained for their alleged association with armed groups remained extremely worrisome. For instance, in Iraq, at least 1,036 children were held in juvenile detention facilities on national security-related charges, mostly for their alleged association with ISIL. In Nigeria, over 1,900 children were deprived of liberty because of their or their parents’ alleged association with Boko Haram.
In his report, the Secretary-General reminded the authorities that children formerly associated with armed groups should be treated primarily as victims and detention only used as a last resort.
Large scale abductions of children remained another worrying trend. In Somalia, Al-Shabab abducted over 1,600 children many of which were also victims of recruitment and use or sexual violence. Massive cross-border recruitment by actors such as ISIL and Boko Haram was also documented as a continuous trend requiring concerted regional efforts.
Another disturbing trend was the denial of humanitarian access used as a tactic of war. Children in Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen were prevented from receiving life-saving support. In Syria, 400,000 persons, including children, trapped in besieged areas such as Ghutah and Rural Damascus, faced deteriorating living conditions.
The number of unaccompanied children fleeing wars and violence also underlines the importance of a coordinated international response, including with regional and sub-regional actors, to multiply child-protection efforts and address the cross-border dimension of grave violations.
“I’m committed to working with parties to conflict and UN partners to develop strong prevention mechanisms. Efforts and resources should be directed toward this end to ensure that in the future, children will be better protected from grave violations,” SRSG Gamba said.
Increased Engagement with Parties to Conflict & Progress
Over 10,000 children were formally released from armed groups and forces to commence their reintegration process.
In Sudan, the Government Forces have been delisted for the recruitment and use of children following the completion of their Action Plan with the UN. In Colombia, as part of the peace process, the FARC-EP put in place measures to release children and prevent their recruitment and has been delisted. The signature of new Action Plans with the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Nigeria (September 2017) and the Mouvement Patriotique pour la Centrafrique (MPC) in CAR (June 2018) is bringing the groups closer to stopping and preventing grave violations against children. Several armed groups, including in Myanmar and CAR, have also expressed their readiness to sign Action Plans with the UN.
“Enhanced engagement between my office and parties to conflict is more likely to bear fruit when coordinated supporting action is also available. In this regard, we have seen the country visits of the Security Council Working Group to conflict situations and the active support of CAAC Groups of Friends as key enablers for our work,” SRSG Gamba concluded.
For additional information, please contact:
Fabienne Vinet/ Stephanie Tremblay, Communications Officers
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict