The children with no childhood

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2 July 2014 – Children are victims of grave abuses in 23 on-going conflict situations world-wide, finds the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict.

In 2013 children were recruited, sexually abused, killed and maimed in conflicts across Africa and the Middle East. The most recent flagrant example of this was the kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria, a group now infamous for attacking schools and hospitals. “Boko Haram continues to commit unspeakable violence against children and I am deeply concerned by the fate of the numerous girls abducted in the past few months,” said Leila Zerrougui , UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict.

949798984 cbb9142547 z“We have documented the cases of children recruited and used by 7 national armies and 50 armed groups fighting wars in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria, and in 11 other countries.” said Ms. Zerrougui.

However, some progress has been made as Chad is no longer included on the list of perpetrators and their army no longer recruits children, and “Seven out of eight countries involved in the campaign are now formally engaged in a process to turn the page on the recruitment and use of children in their national security forces,” said the Special Representative. “We now have the duty to come together and support these countries to ensure their commitment is followed by actions that will make a real difference in children’s lives.”

The conflicts raging in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in 2013 caused an increase in the number of children killed or mutilated. Syria remained in the report one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child. But, the recent advances by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have created an extremely volatile and dangerous situation for children. The Special Representative is receiving disturbing reports of recruitment and other grave violations against children that require immediate action.

Attacks against schools and hospitals are on the rise and parties to the conflict are now listed in Afghanistan, CAR, DRC, Iraq, Nigeria and Syria. In May 2014, the Special Representative issued a joint guidance note with UNICEF, UNESCO and WHO to strengthen the United Nations’ capacity to report, advocate and engage in dialogue with perpetrators to put a stop to these violations.

“What is common to most of these conflict situations is that child rights are violated in total impunity,” Zerrougui stressed. “If we are serious about protecting children, we must demand accountability.”

UNRIC's related links:

UNRIC's article on "Children, not soldiers" campaign
UNRIC's article on Children in Syria
UNRIC's article on Child soldiers in CAR
UNRIC's article on Sexual exploitation of children

UNRIC's backgrounder on Afghanistan
UNRIC's backgrounder on the Syrian Arab Republic
UNRIC's backgrounder on the Central African Republic
UNRIC's backgrounder on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict