Serious violations against children in conflict remain “at an alarming level”, with the coronavirus pandemic increasing their vulnerability to kidnappings, recruitment and sexual violence, according to a new United Nations report.
In its annual report on children and armed conflict (CAAC) (PDF), released on Monday, the UN said at least 19,379 war-affected children in 2020 suffered serious violations such as recruitment or rape.
The UN has verified a total of 26,425 serious violations, of which 23,946 were committed in 2020 and 2,479 were committed earlier but verified only in 2020.
“Escalating conflicts, armed clashes and disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law have had serious repercussions on the protection of children,” the report notes.
According to the report, the highest number of serious violations were recorded in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
While more than 8,400 children have been killed or injured in the ongoing wars, nearly 7,000 others have been recruited to fight, mainly in the DRC, Somalia, Syria and Myanmar.
Verified cases of child abduction and sexual violence against children have increased by 90 and 70 percent, respectively, according to the report – with kidnappings often associated with “the recruitment and use of children and the sexual violence ”, including rape.
The UN has said the coronavirus pandemic “has exacerbated children’s existing vulnerabilities, including hampering their access to education, health and social services, limiting child protection activities and reducing safe spaces “.
Attacks on schools and hospitals were also common in 2020, including serious attacks on girls’ education and on health facilities and their staff.
There has also been an increase in military use of schools and hospitals, particularly with the brief closure of schools during COVID closures – making them easy targets for military occupation and use, according to The report.
“The wars of adults have once again taken the childhoods of millions of boys and girls in 2020,” said Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary General for ACAC.
“It is completely devastating for them, but also for all the communities in which they live, and destroys the chances of a lasting peace.”
“List of shame”
Meanwhile, Save the Children, in a statement released Monday, criticized the CAAC for not adding perpetrators of violations against children to the so-called “shame list”, an addendum to the UN report. which distinguishes parties that do not ensure the safety of children during conflict.
The human rights group said that “in a disheartening decision” UN Secretary-General António Guterres again failed to add the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels to the list. Houthis in war-torn Yemen.
“Despite the murder and dismemberment of at least 194 children in Yemen in 2020 according to UN verified data, the Saudi Arabia-UAE-led coalition has been given the green light to continue destroying children’s lives in Yemen, ”Save the Children said.
“Unfortunately, other parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syria have also been granted a laissez-passer for committing serious violations of children’s rights – although the UN is checking a pattern of serious violations year after year, ”he added.
Israel was not added to the list, although the UN recorded 1,031 serious violations against 340 Palestinians and three Israeli children in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and Israel.
Israeli security forces killed eight Palestinian children and one Israeli child last year, and 87 children reported abuse and due process violations by Israeli forces while in detention – with 83 percent reporting physical abuse.
While Save the Children welcomed the inclusion of countries such as Myanmar as situations of concern, it also noted that Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ukraine were not included.
Commenting on the report, Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children, said: “We strongly urge the Secretary-General to reconsider his decision and to keep conflicting parties around the world up to the same standards. The decision to include an armed actor in the “shame list” should only be based on a pattern of grave violations against children verified by the UN, and not on politics.
“While there have been positive steps this year, not applying the same criteria fairly and consistently can have dramatic consequences for children,” she said.