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World Must Do More to Protect Children From Conflict, Officials Warn

  • Lisa Bryant

FILE - Syrian refugees, including children, stand outside their tents, in the town of Saadnayel, in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon, Jan. 22, 2016.

The French government and UNICEF are urging the international community to step up protection of children living in and fleeing armed conflict that affects tens of millions of youngsters.

Tuesday’s conference was a chance to take stock of progress made since a decade ago, when Paris hosted a similar meeting. But especially, it was a time to urge the world community to do more.

French President Francois Hollande described how the photo of the body of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, who washed up on a Turkish beach, fueled a drive to welcome more refugees in Europe and elsewhere. But that has proved ephemeral. Since then, he said, many more children have died to general indifference.

The United Nations estimates more than 200 million children live in conflict zones. Tens of thousands have been killed, conscripted as child soldiers or forced to become sex slaves. In South Sudan, thousands now risk starvation, with conflict a key driver.

President Hollande did note bright spots. Tens of thousands of child soldiers have been liberated in recent years, including more than 8,000 in 2015.

Closer to home, he called on Britain to take in underage migrants with families across the Channel, following London's decision earlier this month to cut the numbers it had originally promised to accept from Europe.

Hollande also alluded to the new U.S. administration, which reportedly plans to cut funding to the United Nations and other international bodies. He said international laws and institutions must be respected, along with the idea of working together on behalf of the world.

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