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Stop the war on children
by UNICEF, Committee on the Rights of the Child
10:44am 1st May, 2024
Apr. 2024
Shocking increase in children denied aid in conflicts. (UN News)
All warring parties must allow safe, swift and unfettered humanitarian access and protect civilian infrastructure, top UN officials told the UN Security Council on Wednesday.
Painting a grim landscape of the world’s war zones, Virginia Gamba, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, briefed ambassadors, citing grave concerns, from war-torn Gaza to gang-ravaged Haiti, where famine looms amid rampant violence and displacement.
“Let me be very clear,” she said. “The Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child contain key provisions requiring the facilitation of humanitarian relief to children in need.
“The denial of humanitarian access to children and attacks against humanitarian workers assisting children are also prohibited under international humanitarian law.”
The UN’s engagement with combatants to end and prevent violations against children is critical, she said.
Data gathered for her forthcoming 2024 report shows “we are on target to witness a shocking increase of the incidents of the denial of humanitarian access globally,” she said, adding that “the blatant disregard for international humanitarian law continues to increase.”
“Without compliance by parties to conflict to allow safe, full and unhindered access for the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance, children’s survival, wellbeing and development are in jeopardy, and our calls are mere echoes in this Chamber,” she told the Council.
“We cannot prevent denial of humanitarian access to children unless we understand it and reinforce our capacity to monitor and prevent its occurrence. We must get on with the job.”
Also briefing the Council, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ted Chaiban, said that as conflicts proliferate around the world, grave violations against children continue, including in Gaza, Sudan and Myanmar.
“The denial of humanitarian access is a particularly pervasive, multifaceted and complex grave violation,” he said. “These actions have devastating humanitarian consequences for children.”
Recalling his visit to Gaza in January, he said he witnessed a “staggering decline in conditions of children” amid widespread destruction, a “quasi blockage on the north of Gaza” and repeated denials for or delays in granted access of humanitarian convoys.
“Attacks on humanitarian workers have also gravely affected humanitarian access with the highest UN staff death toll in our history, our UNRWA colleagues in particular, and new attacks this week with the death of our World Central Kitchen colleagues, killing humanitarian workers trying to feed starving people,” Mr. Chaiban said.
As a result of these constraints, children cannot access age-appropriate nutritious food or medical services and have less than two to three litres of water per day, he said.
“The consequences have been clear,” he warned. “In March, we reported that one in three children under two years of age in the northern Gaza Strip suffer from acute malnutrition, a figure that has more than doubled in the last two months.”
Dozens of children in the northern Gaza Strip have reportedly died from malnutrition and dehydration in recent weeks and half the population is facing catastrophic food insecurity, he stressed.
In Sudan, the world’s worst child displacement crisis, the violence and blatant disregard for permission to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance essential to protect children from the impact of conflict in Darfur, in Kordofan, in Khartoum and beyond has greatly intensified their suffering, he said.
“We are seeing record levels of admissions for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) – the deadliest form of malnutrition,” the UN deputy chief explained, “but insecurity is preventing patients and health workers from reaching hospitals and other health facilities.”
Assets and staff are still being attacked, and the health system remains overwhelmed resulting in severe shortage of medicines and supplies, including lifesaving items, due to the severe interruption of the supply management system.
“Our inability to consistently access vulnerable children means protection by presence is simply not possible and that risks of other grave violations may escalate without an attendant rise in our ability to monitor or respond,” he said.
He called on the Security Council to use its influence to prevent and end the denial of humanitarian access to children, protect humanitarian workers and allow aid agencies to safely reach those in most need, across frontlines and across borders.
* UN WebTV: Children and Armed Conflict - Coverage of UN Security Council meeting: Addressing the consequences of the denial of humanitarian access for children:
26 Mar. 2024
Armed violence deepening malnutrition crisis for children in Haiti.
The alarming surge in armed violence in areas of Haiti is creating heightened risk of furthering a malnutrition crisis in the country, UNICEF warned today.
The recent findings from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis indicate an alarming 19 per cent increase in the number of children estimated to suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in Haiti this year. In addition, and as evidenced by the latest IPC analysis, 1.64 million people are facing emergency levels of acute food insecurity, (IPC Phase 4), which increases the risk of child wasting and malnutrition, especially in 8 areas of the country.
The ongoing armed violence across Artibonite department and the West department, which encompasses Port au Prince, has restricted aid delivery and crumbled an already fragile healthcare system, posing an imminent threat to the lives of over 125,000 children at risk of severe acute malnutrition.
“The violence and instability in Haiti have consequences far beyond the risk of the violence itself. The situation is creating a child health and nutrition crisis that could cost the lives of countless of children,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director.
“Thousands of children are on the brink, while life-saving supplies are ready to be delivered if violence stops and roads and hospitals are opened. This malnutrition crisis is entirely human made. Basic security is urgently needed for the people of Haiti, for the life-saving services they rely on, and for humanitarian workers to reach children and families in desperate need.”
Since January, the deteriorating security situation in Haiti has continued to worsen the humanitarian crisis, with serious consequences for UNICEF’s ability to store, deliver and restock desperately needed assistance.
Earlier this month, one of UNICEF's 17 containers was looted at Port-au-Prince's main port. The looted container held essential items for maternal, neonatal, and child survival, including resuscitators and related equipment. The ongoing insecurity has also left just two in five hospitals operational across the country. Meanwhile, only one in four health facilities are functioning in the Artibonite department, the nation’s main rice-growing region.
At the same time, the current insecurity in Port-au-Prince has made it virtually impossible for health and nutrition supplies to reach at least 58,000 children suffering from severe wasting in the metropolitan area. The Martissant road, the only humanitarian corridor from Port-au-Prince to the southern regions, remains blocked, leaving an estimated 15,000 children suffering from malnutrition at the brink of disaster.
And the insecurity plaguing much of Haiti’s capital is hampering the transport and resupply of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), used to treat children suffering from SAM, which could lead to supply chain disruptions and have serious consequences if the situation remains unchanged.
Despite the highly volatile environment, UNICEF is stepping up efforts to protect families and provide life-saving support, including for those who are trapped and cut off from essential services. Together with partners, UNICEF is helping to sustain national, regional, and – in the most insecure areas – neighborhood systems and services that protect children and families.
UNICEF is calling for:
Accelerated efforts by the international community to protect civilians, restore law and order in the streets, and ensure safe movement of humanitarian workers and life-saving supplies, including RUTF; Increased immediate, flexible funding to meet the needs of the most vulnerable as the situation evolves, ensuring aid reaches affected populations as quickly as possible; And the protection of schools, hospitals, and other critical infrastructure children rely on, and for the safeguarding of humanitarian spaces.
Gaza's Children: Trapped in a Cycle of Suffering, by James Elder.
“Today I would like to speak about two major issues that people here in Gaza say are central to their survival. The safety of those in Rafah, and aid delivery.
“Today Rafah is unrecognizable because of the congestion, and tents on street corners and sandy plots. People sleep in the streets, in public buildings, in any other available empty space. The global standards for humanitarian emergencies say there should be a maximum of 20 people using one toilet. In Rafah, there is approximately one toilet for every 850 people. For showers, it’s four times that number - one shower for every 3600 people. This is a hellish disregard for basic human needs and dignity.
“Those same standards say people need 15 litres of water each, daily, and an absolute minimum of three litres just to survive. When I was here in November, families and children in the Gaza Strip were relying on three litres or less of water per person per day. Today, on average, households surveyed had access to less than one litre of safe water per person per day.
“Neighbouring Khan Yunis is also unrecognizable, though for a different reason – it barely exists anymore. In my 20 years with the United Nations, I have never seen such devastation. Just chaos and ruin, with rubble and debris scattered in every single direction. Utter annihilation. "Moving around those streets, I was overwhelmed by loss.
“Which takes us back to Rafah. And the endless talk of a large-scale military operation in Rafah. Rafah is a city of children. 600,000 girls and boys there. A military offensive in Rafah? “Offensive” is the right word. Rafah - home to some of Gaza’s last remaining hospitals, shelters, markets and water systems.
“And then there is the north. Yesterday I was again in Jabalia. Tens of thousands of people crowd the streets, placing their hands to their mouths - that universal sign for hunger.
“When I came into the Gaza Strip a week ago, there were hundreds of trucks with lifesaving humanitarian aid, waiting to get to people in urgent need, but on the wrong side of the border. Hundreds of UN/INGO trucks are currently backlogged waiting to enter Gaza.
“Remembering, last week’s Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) noted famine is imminent in northern Gaza. Gaza now has the largest percentage of a population, anywhere, to receive its most severe rating since the body began reporting in 2004.
“Before this war, child wasting in the Gaza Strip was rare with less than one per cent of children under 5 years of age acutely malnourished. Today one in three children under 2 years are acutely malnourished. Clearly, the north needs massive amounts of food and nutrition treatments, urgently. But let’s be clear – our efforts to provide that aid are being hampered.
“There is an existing old crossing point, Erez, that could be used that is 10 minutes from those facing famine. 10 minutes. Open that and we could turn this humanitarian crisis in the north around in a matter of days. But it remains closed.
“Between 1 - 22 March, one-quarter of 40 humanitarian aid missions to northern Gaza were denied. UNRWA is now blocked from delivering food to the north, and yet 50% of food going to the north was delivered by UNRWA.
“Let’s be clear: Lifesaving aid is being obstructed. Lives are being lost. Dignity is being denied.
“The deprivation, the forced desperation, means despair pervades the population. And people's nerves are shattered amid unrelenting attacks.
“People often ask if there is still hope. Everything is at extremes here, and that question is no different. On one hand, a mother will tell me that she’s lost loved ones, her home and her ability to regularly feed her children; all she has left is hope. Then yesterday, UNICEF sat with adolescents, several of whom said, they were so desperate for their nightmare to end, that they hoped to be killed.
“The unspeakable is regularly said in Gaza. From teenage girls hoping they are killed; to being told a child is the last survivor from their entire family. Such horror is no longer unique here.
“Amid it all, so many brave, generous and tireless Palestinians continue to support one another. And sister UN agencies and UNICEF continue. For UNICEF, we persist for every child. Water, protection, nutrition, and shelter. UNICEF is here.
“As we heard yesterday: the ceasefire must be substantive, not symbolic. The hostages must go home. The people of Gaza must be allowed to live.
“In the three months between my visits, every horrific number rose dramatically. Gaza has shattered humanity's records for its darkest chapters. Humanity must now urgently write a different chapter.”
9 years into the conflict in Yemen, millions of children are malnourished and stunted
Nine years into the conflict in Yemen, almost 10 million children remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
While the reduction in active conflict since April 2022 has led to a decrease in civilian casualties and distress across communities, the situation remains fragile without a sustainable political settlement - especially critical at a time when more than half of the population - 18.2 million people, including 9.8 million children – remain in need of lifesaving support.
The fragility is most clearly demonstrated by persistent malnutrition in the country, where more than 2.7 million children are acutely malnourished and 49 per cent of children under the age of five suffer from stunting or chronic malnutrition. This condition hinders children from growing to their full potential with irreversible damage to long-term physical and cognitive development.
“The vicious combination of years of protracted conflict, a shattered economy, and a failed social support system have had a devastating impact on the lives of the most vulnerable children in Yemen,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
“Far too many children continue to be deprived of basic necessities, including proper nutrition, which could threaten generations to come unless urgent action is taken to provide children with the preventive measures and treatment they so desperately need.”
In 2024 UNICEF aims to reach more than 500,000 children with treatment for severe acute malnutrition, a critical measure in contributing to a reduction in under-5 mortality.
Despite the truce-like conditions, intermittent fighting and exchanges of fire continue in many parts of the country with children being the victims of landmines and explosive remnants of war. Since the start of the conflict in 2015, more than 11,500 children have been killed or injured as a result of the conflict.
“UNICEF and partners will continue our life-saving work in Yemen to help ensure that children who have suffered so much will have brighter days – and futures – ahead,” said Russell. “To do this, we need continued support, commitment and solidarity from our partners and the international community.”
Children in Sudan at risk of famine, by Catherine Russell.
“The brutal war in Sudan is pushing the country toward famine and a catastrophic loss of life, especially among children. In what is now the world’s largest child displacement crisis, severe malnutrition among young children is intensifying beyond the worst projections, and there are outbreaks of cholera, measles and malaria.
“There is also evidence of spikes in malnutrition-related child deaths, particularly among displaced children. In January 2024, an assessment by Doctors Without Borders at Zamzam Camp, North Darfur, revealed malnutrition and mortality above emergency levels. Mass child nutrition screenings conducted by UNICEF and partners in February 2024 in Central Darfur and Gezira states reflect alarming levels of child wasting. And in February, the State Ministry of Health in West Darfur verified the deaths of 14 children due to malnutrition. They died in their homes.
“This is happening before the annual lean season which begins in the coming weeks – when the malnutrition situation will only worsen.
“In 2023, UNICEF saw record admissions of children seeking life-saving treatment for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) – the deadliest form of malnutrition – in the areas UNICEF and our partners could access.
However, in places we are less able to access, just 37 per cent of the estimated 120,000 children suffering from SAM received the life-saving treatment they required – the vast majority of them before conflict broke out in April.
“This year, nearly three-quarters of the staggering 3.7 million children who need urgent nutrition support live in 135 localities that are classified as hard-to-reach. Over half of the children suffering from SAM are in Darfur, Khartoum and Kordofan, which include large areas where assistance must be delivered across conflict lines or borders.
“Communities are on the brink of famine because we are prevented from reaching many of the children, women and families in need. This is unacceptable. We must act now to massively scale up work to identify the children and women at risk, and provide them with life-saving feeding and care, including essential nutrition supplies, vaccines and safe water.
“To do this, we need parties to the conflict to enable rapid, sustained, and unimpeded humanitarian access – both across conflict lines within Sudan and across borders with Sudan’s neighboring countries. Chad has provided a crucial lifeline to communities in Darfur, and access through its border remains critical, along with access through South Sudan. We also need telecommunications networks to function properly in order to identify and refer children at risk, and for humanitarian partners to communicate urgent needs.
“From the international community, we need a massive mobilization of resources by the end of March so that humanitarian partners can get the supplies and capacity on the ground, in time, to limit the impending humanitarian catastrophe. UNICEF alone urgently requires US$ 240 million for its famine prevention response.
“Children cannot wait for the world to deliberate whether famine is underway in Sudan. They urgently need help right now.”
After 13 years of conflict in Syria, more children than ever in need of humanitarian assistance.
After thirteen years of conflict in Syria, almost 7.5 million children in the country are in need of humanitarian assistance – more than at any other time during the conflict. Repeated cycles of violence and displacement, a devastating economic crisis and extreme deprivation, disease outbreaks and last year’s devastating earthquakes have left hundreds of thousands of children exposed to long-term physical and psychosocial consequences.
More than 650,000 children under the age of five are chronically malnourished – an increase of around 150,000 in the four years since 2019. Chronic malnutrition, or stunting, causes irreversible damage to the physical and cognitive development of children, impacting their capacity to learn, their productivity, and their earnings later in adulthood.
According to a recent household survey conducted in northern Syria, 34 per cent of girls and 31 per cent of boys reported psychosocial distress. Similarly, the rapid assessments conducted in earthquake-affected areas reported an even higher percentage of children exhibiting severe behavioural psychological distress (83 per cent of respondents.)
“The sad reality is that today and, in the days ahead, many children in Syria will mark their 13th birthdays, becoming teenagers, knowing that their entire childhood to date has been marked by conflict, displacement and deprivation,” said UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Adele Khodr.
"Ultimately, children need a chance. They need a long-term peaceful solution to the crisis, but we cannot just wait for that to happen. In the meantime, it is critical to ensure that children and families not only have access to basic services but also that we are equipping children with the skills to build their own futures.”
Whilst Syria no longer regularly makes international headlines, the conflict continues to devastate the future of children and their lives. A recent wave of violence that began in the past six months in several localities is the worst the country has seen for four years.
More than 13 million Syrians - roughly half the pre-conflict population - are displaced inside or outside Syria and unable to return to their homes. More than two-thirds of the population are in need of humanitarian assistance.
Humanitarian funding has dropped to an all-time low, both inside Syria itself and for Syrians in neighbouring countries. Nearly half of the 5.5 million school-aged children - some 2.4 million children aged 5-17 - are out of school.
“A generation of children in Syria have already paid an unbearable price for this conflict,” said Khodr. “Continued support from the international community is critical for restoring systems to deliver essential basic social services, like education, water and sanitation, health, nutrition, child and social protection, ensuring that no child in Syria is left behind”.
Amid escalating violence in Mozambique, 60,000 children displaced within a month
Maputo, Mozambique: “In the past month, attacks and fear of attacks in Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique, have triggered the displacement of almost 100,000 people, including more than 60,000 children.
“Children separated from their families are at risk of violence and exploitation, including recruitment and use by armed groups.
“More than 100 schools in Cabo Delgado and Nampula provinces have had to close due to insecurity, affecting the learning of over 50,000 children. Children and families are being cut off from essential services, including health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, and child protection services.
“And many of those forced to flee – more than 45,000 people – have fled to Erati district, in Nampula, the province immediately south of Cabo Delgado,an area that is experiencing a cholera outbreak, putting them at serious risk.
“In the chaos created by displacement, many children have become separated from their families. UNICEF has so far registered 182 cases of separated children since the latest attacks in Chiure district on February 24.
“Without access to nutrition services, displaced children experiencing severe acute malnutrition are at serious risk. The psychological impact on children and families is also tremendous. Our teams on the ground in Cabo Delgado report that children are traumatized and having difficulty coping with the hardships they are experiencing.
23 Feb. 2024
UNICEF and WFP demand action to protect children and unfettered humanitarian access in eastern DRC
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are calling for immediate action to protect children and families caught in the escalating violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where an increasing number of people, including children, have been wounded or killed near makeshift camps. Both agencies call on all parties to the conflict to prioritize the protection of civilians and allow humanitarian agencies to do their work.
The latest conflict in the Eastern DRC has resulted in catastrophic conditions for the local population. Fierce fighting has, over the past two weeks, moved 25 kilometres west of Goma towards the town of Sake, where children and their families are caught in a deadly crossfire.
“Children in DRC need peace now,” said Grant Leaity, UNICEF Representative in the DRC. “We are calling for children to be protected in this war and for an end to this violence through renewed efforts to find a diplomatic solution. We are extremely concerned about the safety of children and their families in and around camps in Goma.”
This has triggered a huge movement of people to already overcrowded displacement camps. An additional 214,950 people have joined the 500,000 people already displaced to areas around Goma. Separately, tens of thousands of others moved towards Minova in South Kivu.
Crucial land routes to facilitate food delivery and other supplies have been cut off, causing shortages and price spikes in Goma’s local markets. The situation further strains families struggling to put food on their tables.
“We are facing a humanitarian catastrophe of massive proportions,” said Peter Musoko, Country Director and Representative for WFP in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). “Make no mistake: If we do not act now, lives will be lost.”
The increase in violence and displacement is straining resources for both agencies to mount a comprehensive response that includes food, clean water, good sanitation, safe shelter, basic health care, and protective services for women and children.
DRC has become one of the continent’s most significant internal displacement crises, with 6.9 million people displaced, primarily due to conflict in the east. In the last year alone, IOM estimates that 1.6 million people have been displaced.
Ukraine two years: Children in frontline areas forced to spend up to 5,000 hours – equivalent to nearly 7 months - sheltering underground
Children in cities in Ukraine’s frontline areas have been forced to spend between 3,000 and 5,000 hours – equivalent to between four and almost 7 months – sheltering in basements and underground metro stations over the past two years, as air raid alerts sound above.
Since the war escalated in February 2022, relentless attacks – resulting in around 3,500 air raid alerts in the Zaporizhzhia and Kharkiv regions and nearly 6,200 in the Donetsk region – have had a devastating impact on children’s mental health and ability to effectively learn.
The winter months have been particularly horrific for children, with thousands sheltering in cold, damp basements as an escalation of attacks left many families without heating, access to water and electricity.
“The war in Ukraine has shattered childhoods and wreaked havoc on children’s mental health and ability to learn,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “Children have experienced two years of violence, isolation, separation from families, loss of loved ones, displacement and disrupted schooling and healthcare. They need this nightmare to end.”
“The continued shelling leaves little opportunity for Ukraine’s children to recover from the distress and trauma associated with attacks. Every siren and explosion brings further anxiety. Education is a pillar of hope, opportunity and stability in children’s lives, but it continues to be disrupted or out of reach for millions of Ukraine’s children.”
The psychological impacts of war on children are widespread. According to survey data, half of 13- to 15-year-olds have trouble sleeping, and 1 in 5 have intrusive thoughts and flashbacks – typical manifestations of post-traumatic stress disorder. Three-quarters of children and young people aged 14 to 34 recently reported needing emotional or psychological support. However, less than a third sought help.
Parents across Ukraine report elevated levels of anxiety, excessive fear, phobias and sadness, and decreased engagement in school, sensitivity to loud noises, and sleep troubles among children. At a time when parental support is needed most, half of parents surveyed report that they are struggling to support their children.
Across the country, 40 per cent of Ukraine’s children cannot access continuous education due to a lack of facilities. In areas nearer to the frontline, half of school-age children are unable to access education. Latest data show that the scale of learning gaps seen in 2022 compared to 2018 is equivalent to two years of loss in reading and one year of loss in maths.
Since the escalation of the war two years ago, UNICEF expanded its work in Ukraine and is currently present in Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa, Dnipro, Poltava, Mykolaiv, and Kharkiv to provide humanitarian assistance and critical support to children and families.
“Humanitarian principles, international humanitarian law and international human rights law must be respected. Children need a chance to recover, and the best way to do that is by ending this war,” said Russell.
20 Nov. 2023
Nothing to Celebrate on World’s Children’s Day, reports Ms. Virginia Gamba - Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
On November 20th, we commemorate World’s Children’s Day, an occasion to take a step back and reflect. Reflect on our achievements but also on the remaining progress that we need to accomplish to fulfill the rights of every child.
The recognition of a child, as well as their rights and needs, is enshrined in the most widely ratified Convention of the United Nations, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). More than thirty years have passed since the adoption of the CRC in 1989 and yet, in 2023, it has become increasingly evident that a vast number of children remain daily victims of violence, abuse, and oppression, particularly those living in situations of armed conflict.
Over the years, the United Nations Security Council has recognized the importance of bringing visibility to the most vulnerable children, by requesting the Secretary-General to report annually on the six grave violations affecting children in armed conflict, namely recruitment and use, killing and maiming, sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access.
In 2022 alone, the United Nations verified 27,180 violations affecting children which were committed in 24 situations and one regional arrangement. The most prevalent violation of 2022 was the killing and maiming of children, while the number of attacks on schools and hospitals showed an unprecedented increase of 112% compared to the previous year. As sobering as the 2022 figures were, they felt pale when contrasted with the dramatic increase in violations against children during 2023.
Armed violence has worryingly increased in many ongoing conflicts including in Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Myanmar, Niger, Somalia, Sudan, and most recently in Israel and the State of Palestine.
So far this year, reported violations against children in conflict have climbed significantly, particularly those related to the killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools and hospitals, and their protected personnel. Perhaps no situation is more tragic than the case of Israel and the State of Palestine, particularly Gaza, where thousands of children have been killed and maimed, denied life-saving humanitarian aid including food, water, and medicine.
“While there must be accountability for the horrific terror attack against civilians in Israel, the ensuing continued bombardment and deprivation of humanitarian relief to an entire civilian population in Gaza, half of whom are children, cannot be justified. The hostilities against the children in Gaza must stop now,” remarked the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ms. Virginia Gamba.
In Sudan, children have been facing intense hostilities since April, and are subjected to raids, and airstrikes by parties to conflict, resulting in shocking accounts of widespread killing and maiming of children and sexual violence against girls, including rape.
Thousands of children in and around Khartoum, the Darfur states, the Blue Nile, and the Kordofan regions are disproportionately affected by the actions of armed forces and armed groups. Parties to conflict in Sudan must prioritize a cessation of hostilities and a return to peace if children are to be spared further suffering.
Children in the Sahel and Lake Chad basin continue to be victims of armed conflict. Children are raped, abducted, and recruited by armed forces and armed groups, particularly girls, while schools and hospitals are attacked and destroyed.
In Afghanistan, girls beyond 6th grade are deprived of their education and of any opportunities for development and personal growth, leading to forced marriage, a form of sexual violence. To add to this dramatic situation, in November 2023, reportedly 400,000 girls, with their relatives, were forcibly deported from Pakistan, to share the fate of their sisters living under the restrictive rules in place.
The use of explosive ordnance, including improvised explosive devices, landmines, and explosive remnants of war, continues to be one of the main causes of child casualties, particularly when used in densely populated areas. Those weapons fiercely and indiscriminately target children in many countries around the world. The situation for children remains very dire particularly due to the impact of explosive ordnance, in Colombia, Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Ukraine.
Counter-terrorism measures have unprecedented negative impacts on children, including their deprivation of liberty, sometimes solely over an assumption of affiliation with an opposing party to conflict. Let us remind ourselves that more than 31,000 children remain deprived of liberty in Hawl and Rawj camps in north-east Syria, waiting to be released and repatriated to their countries of origin, and over 600 children are currently deprived of liberty for alleged association with armed forces and armed groups without adequate access to humanitarian aid and basic services.
To add to the tragedy of children living in situations of armed conflict, other push factors such as the effects of climate change, and its impact on inter-communal violence, as well as the rise of pandemics and endemics, have led to a general impoverishment of communities, trigger for children to join armed groups and/or face sexual violence. Further, as seen in Haiti, armed groups and gangs are increasingly targeting children and committing all six grave violations against children in doing so.
Nevertheless, hope remains in some situations. This is the case notably in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, the Philippines, and Yemen, where there is a decline in verified violations against children.
All these situations have one thing in common: the parties to conflict have intentionally decided to put in place measures to protect children. These measures were translated for some through a direct engagement with the United Nations over the signature of a joint action plan, for others through the declaration of a ceasefire and/or the start of peaceful dialogue for conflict resolution.
Irrefutably, the pursuit of peace should be the ultimate goal of parties to the conflict, and it is essential to urge all global leaders to push peers, allies, and friends to engage on the path to peace.
“Without the political will to genuinely resolve conflicts, we will continue to fail our children and their hopes and dreams. Without respecting the obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, we will continue to harm our children. Without putting children at the center of our actions, the possibility of complying with the CRC and providing every child with their rights and needs is sadly null,” explained the Special Representative.
There is nothing to celebrate on this World’s Children’s Day but simply acknowledge a lingering sense of regret and shame.
“Stop the war on children. It is time to act to protect children. Let us recall our humanity, we owe this to the children of the world”.
* There are 468 million children worldwide living in armed conflict zones, according to Save the Children’s research, accounting for about 20% of the world’s 2.4 billion children population, based on UNICEF’s statistics.

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