The past decade saw troubling levels of violence against children, with some 45 children seeing their rights “gravely violated” each day during the 2010s, a new report from the United Nations said.
In total, more than 170,000 children were affected by conflict throughout the past decade, said a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report detailing the major atrocities against children around the world.
These violations included the killing, maiming, abduction, sexual assault, and forced military service of children. The regions highlighted in the UNICEF report were the Middle East and Africa, although children around the world were at risk.
“Conflicts around the world are lasting longer, causing more bloodshed and claiming more young lives” than in previous times, said Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF. The organization announced the creation of a special fund to address the “historic” numbers of children in need.
In January 2019, more than 30 children were killed in Syria as a result of the ongoing civil war. The situation in Syria is “one of the gravest crises of our time,” said UNICEF. The organization also noted that thousands of children have been displaced due to the war.
“The hostilities damaged or caused the closure of critical basic services including schools, and health and water facilities,” said UNICEF. “Many of those displaced, especially children, are also in desperate need of psychological support after witnessing shelling, fighting and explosions in their home communities.”
The first nine months last year were particularly devastating for Afghani children, said UNICEF. Approximately nine children were “killed or maimed” each day.
“Even by Afghanistan’s grim standards, 2019 has been particularly deadly for children,” said Fore.
In February 2019, there were attacks on Ebola treatment centers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the midst of one of the largest-ever outbreaks of the disease. Ebola, which kills about two out of every three people infected, particularly impacts children as they are at risk of losing their parents or being forced to spend time in isolation due to fear of the virus spreading.
Schools were frequent targets of violence in 2019, said the report. In April, 14 children were killed in a bombing attack in Sana’a, Yemen, while class was in session. About 2 million of Yemen’s children are not even enrolled in a school due to poverty, violence, or other reasons. A quarter of these children left school since the country’s civil war began in 2015. In Cameroon, violence has led to over 800,000 school-aged children being kept out of school. Cameroon’s civil unrest expanded to eight regions of the country last year.
Over in eastern Ukraine, which is in a sustained conflict with Russia, there were 36 attacks on schools in 2019.
UNICEF also continued to decry the use of children as soldiers. In June, three children were used as “human bombs” in northeast Nigeria in an attack that killed 30 people, the organization noted.