News / Africa

UNESCO: Conflict Is Robbing 28 Million Children of Future

Children sift through garbage at a dump site in Harare, Zimbabwe, on President Robert Mugabe's 87th birthday, February 21, 2011 (file photo)
Children sift through garbage at a dump site in Harare, Zimbabwe, on President Robert Mugabe's 87th birthday, February 21, 2011 (file photo)

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Lisa Bryant

Armed conflict is depriving about 28 million children worldwide of an education, yet the international community has been slow to address this dilemma. The warning comes in a report by the Paris-based United Nations cultural and education agency, UNESCO.

Attacks on schools, widespread rape and other atrocities not only have stunted lives, but also educational opportunities for millions of children around the world. That is the chilling finding of a new report by the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.   

Kevin Watkins, the director of the report, said, "We document one country after another - the Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan - where armed groups are acting with impunity in carrying out acts of rape and sexual violence against children."

UNESCO said that nearly half of all primary school-age children around the world - roughly 28 million of them - who are not enrolled in school live in conflict-torn countries. And their plight is one of the reasons why the world may miss its goal of universal primary education by 2015.

The U.N. agency is calling for an international commission to investigate rape and sexual violence against children - and for the International Criminal Court in The Hague to get involved.

"And in cases where governments are unwilling to do what they're supposed to do, which is to protect vulnerable children, we believe the dossier should be passed to the International Criminal Court and appropriate action taken."

Watkins says people living in these conflict-torn countries are doing everything they can to give their children an education. Only 2 percent of humanitarian aid goes to education, however, and that is far less than what is needed.

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