The World of International Organizations

Decade of rising attacks on kids in conflicts

A child protection officer from the U.N.'s Pakistani Female Engagement Team comforts children displaced by conflict at Mikenge, Congo (ARÊTE/MONUSCO)

GENEVA — Conflict-fueled attacks on children that authorities could verify tripled worldwide in the past decade to an average of 45 per day due to longer and more lethal wars that disregard humanitarian laws, UNICEF said on Monday.

The United Nations children’s agency said the world body verified more than 170,000 killings, abductions, sexual violence and other grave violations against children in conflicts over the 21st century’s second decade, a figure that is two-and-a-half times higher than the previous decade.

In 2018 alone, the U.N. counted more than 12,000 children killed or maimed and another 12,000 harmed by other types of serious violations. Airstrikes and explosive weapons like landmines, mortars, improvised explosive devices, rocket attacks, cluster munitions and artillery shelling are the predominant cause of the vast majority of child casualties in armed conflict, the U.N. agency said.

During the first half of 2019, the United Nations verified more than 10,000 such violations against children, but said the actual numbers are likely to be much higher.

Last year’s atrocities ranged from the killing of 157 villagers, including 46 children, by an armed group in central Mali to the deaths of 14 children and wounding of 16 others, mostly girls under the age of nine, in an explosion near two schools in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, while classes were underway.

Longer-lasting conflicts

UNICEF’s executive director, Henrietta Fore, noted that many more attacks go unreported to authorities. The number of nations that are mired in armed conflicts is the highest it has been since the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted three decades ago.

That landmark human rights treaty, which turned 30 years old in November, has helped make children healthier today, but they still face new threats such as climate change and online abuse, according to UNICEF.

The U.N. children’s agency said the treaty, first adopted on Nov. 20, 1989, is a factor in the increasing numbers of children who live longer, better and healthier lives, but the poorest and most vulnerable among them still face long odds at such improvement. The risks are compounded by armed conflicts.

UNICEF called on all sides in violent conflicts around the world to abide by their obligations under international law and stop harming children, civilians and their schools, hospital and water supplies.

“Conflicts around the world are lasting longer, causing more bloodshed and claiming more young lives,” Fore said in a statement. “Attacks on children continue unabated as warring parties flout one of the most basic rules of war: the protection of children.”

The world of international organizations.

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