Children living in conflict-torn countries around the world continued to suffer through the year 2018 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reported.
UNICEF through its Director of Emergency Programmes, Manuel Fontaine, noted, “Children living in conflict-torn countries and zones around the world have continued to suffer through extreme levels of violence over the past 12 months, and the world has continued to fail them,”
It was observed that widespread violations against children in conflict continue in shocking year-on-year trend in the outgoing year 2018.
Subsequently the futures of millions of children living in countries affected by armed conflict continue to be at risk Fontaine pointed out adding, “warring parties continue to commit grave violations against children, and world leaders fail to hold perpetrators accountable”
The Director also observed, “For too long, parties to conflict have been committing atrocities with near-total impunity, and it is only getting worse. Much more can and must be done to protect and assist children.”
Countries where children continued to be under direct attacks and used ad human shields or recruited to fight, due to war and conflicts include: Syria to Yemen, and from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to Nigeria, South Sudan and Myanmar.
In northeast Nigeria, armed groups, including Boko Haram factions, continue to target girls, who are raped, forced to become wives of fighters or used as ‘human bombs’. In February, the group abducted 110 girls and one boy from a technical college in Dapchi, Yobe State. While most of the children have since been released, five girls died and one is still being held captive as a slave.
According to Fontaine, “2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, yet today, more countries are embroiled in internal or international conflict than at any other time in the past three decades”.
Children living in conflict-torn countries are among the least likely to be guaranteed their rights.
UNICEF is therefore calling on all warring parties to abide by their obligations under international law to immediately end violations against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and water infrastructure.
UNICEF also calls on states with influence over parties to conflict to use that influence to protect children.
“Much more needs to be done to prevent wars, and to end the many disastrous armed conflicts devastating children’s lives. Yet even as wars continue, we must never accept attacks against children. We must hold warring parties to their obligation to protect children. Otherwise, it is children, their families and their communities who will continue to suffer the devastating consequences, for now, and for years to come,” Fontaine said.
For example, in October, UNICEF helped to secure the release of 833 children recruited into armed forces in northeast Nigeria, and are working these children to reintegrate them into their communities. Since conflict broke out in South Sudan five years ago, UNICEF has reunited almost 6,000 unaccompanied and separated children with their families. In Bangladesh, in 2018, UNICEF reached thousands of Rohingya refugee children with mental health and psychosocial support. In Iraq, UNICEF is working with partners to provide specialized services to women and children affected by gender-based violence.