The U.N. children’s fund says more than 266,000 violations were committed against children in armed conflict between 2005 and 2020.
An analysis of more than 30 conflicts across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America finds children continue to bear the brunt of war and are forced to endure what it calls unspeakable horrors.
Authors of a report on the subject say the figure in the report represents just a fraction of the violations believed to have occurred and does not reflect the magnitude of the crimes committed against children caught in conflict.
Tasha Gill is UNICEF’s senior adviser, Child Protection in Emergencies. She says children are victims of a staggering average of 71 verified grave violations every day. She says the report documents the killing and maiming of more than 104,000 children in conflict.
“Between 2016 and 2020, 82 percent of all verified child casualties occurred in only five situations: Afghanistan, Israel and the State of Palestine, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. It is also important to note that many children experience more than one violation, increasing their vulnerability," Gill said.
She notes abduction often leads to other violations, such as recruitment and sexual violence. The report has verified at least 25,700 child abductions by parties to conflict and more than 93,000 children recruited as soldiers by all parties to conflict.
Additionally, the report says children have been raped, forcibly married and sexually exploited, with at least 14,200 children also having been subjected to other forms of sexual violence. Gill calls sexual violence against children the most underreported of all violations.
“Sexual violence does occur against children. It is used as a tactic of war. It is one of the lowest numbers because of the access issue but also the stigma and fear attached to reporting in conflicts across the board … Children are often used for many different reasons, which can be considered deliberate targeting. Our request is that all parties immediately cease and desist from using children in armed conflict," Gill said.
She notes children are recruited as soldiers, and many also are used by the warring parties as porters, sexual slaves, and messengers. She says the violations must stop.
UNICEF is calling on parties to conflict and states to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law and implement concrete measures to protect children.
Agency officials say they have met with success in preventing some violations against children and putting a stop to others by engaging with those responsible for the violations. For example, over the past two decades they say at least 170,000 children have been released from armed forces and armed groups.