Accessibility links

Breaking News

Children in Conflict Pay a Deadly Price

FILE - Children from the Yazidi community, who were recently freed after being captured by Islamic State fighters, ride on a back of a truck near Baghouz, Deir el-Zour province, Syria, March 6, 2019.

The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says verified attacks on children in conflict have risen threefold since 2010, making the past decade particularly deadly for children.

As the decade draws to a close, UNICEF reports children continue to pay a deadly price as conflicts rage around the world. In a video message, UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore expresses her dismay at the bloody cost of war that claims so many young lives forces them to flee their homes and shatters their dreams for the future.

"As people prepare to celebrate the coming of the New Year, I hope we also remember those who are not so lucky," she said. "Today, hundreds of millions of children and young people are living in countries and areas torn apart by conflict, from Syria and Yemen, to South Sudan, Central African Republic and Nigeria."

UNICEF has verified more than 170,000 grave violations against children in conflict since the start of the decade. That comes to more than 45 violations every single day for the last 10 years.

It says it fears the killing and maiming of children will increase as conflicts become more frequent, are more violent and last longer. Fore describes the lives of the children caught in this mayhem as a waking nightmare.

"They are used as human shields," she said. "They are vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and child marriage. Many are recruited to the fighting and millions miss out on the nutrition, health care, protection, and education that their bodies and brains need to develop."

UNICEF reports airstrikes and explosive weapons such as landmines, mortars, and cluster munitions have killed or maimed more than 12,000 children in 2018. In addition, it has verified more than 24,000 grave violations against children, including sexual violence, abductions, child recruitment and attacks on schools and hospitals.

The agency says attacks and violence against children have not let up throughout 2019. The final tally for the year is not yet in. But it has verified more than 10,000 grave violations against children during the first half of the year, noting the actual number is likely to be much higher.

As the year and the decade draw to a close, UNICEF is urging all warring parties to abide by their obligations under international law and to end violations against children. It also is calling on states with influence over the parties to do more to protect children against the ravages of war.