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Child attacked: Six grave violations against children in times of war

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Posted 07/10/2018 8:40:32CET

How children have become targets of first line in armed conflict

MADRID, 7 Oct. (By UNICEF) –

From assassinations, widespread mutilation, abduction and sexual violence going through recruitment by armed groups and attacks against schools and hospitals, as well as against water facilities essential, children living in conflict zones around the world continue to be targeted to an astounding scale.

Today, one out of every four children lives in a country affected by a conflict or disaster, and in 2017 there was a great increase in the number of violations documented against children in these areas.

The armed forces and armed groups should take measures, under International Humanitarian Law, to protect civilians, including children, who are particularly vulnerable in times of war. Civilians should never be the target of attacks.

In order to observe, prevent and put an end to the attacks against children, the Security Council of the UN has identified and condemned these six grave violations against children in times of war, that were observed in 20 conflict-affected countries around the world in 2017.

1. Murder and mutilation of children.

Since 2010, the number of cases verified by the UN, children are being killed and maimed has increased significantly. Only in 2017, the UN verified more than 10,000 cases of children being killed or maimed in the conflict. Mutilation includes any serious injury, permanent, or disabling to a child.

These violations contributed to the overall increase in the number of children affected worldwide by clashes in 2017, driven by a growing lack of respect for the rules of war in the midst of indiscriminate violence in countries such as Syria, South sudan, Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan.

2. Recruitment and use of children by armed forces or armed groups

Tens of thousands of children are estimated to have been recruited and used in conflicts around the world. Many have been enrolled to the force, while others join because of economic pressure or social. Children who are displaced or living in poverty are even more vulnerable to recruitment.

The children are recruited or used for multiple functions by the armed forces and armed groups, including as combatants, cooks, porters, messengers and spies, or are subjected to sexual exploitation.

The numbers of children recruited by the armed forces are increasing –verified cases have been multiplied by four in central African Republic (299) and doubled in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1.049) compared with 2016–. The number of verified cases of recruitment and use of children in Somalia (2.127), South Sudan (To 1221), Syria (961) and Yemen (842) persists at alarming levels.

3. Attacks against schools or hospitals

Schools and hospitals should be protected spaces, in which children are safe even in times of conflict. Even so, attacks against schools and hospitals during conflicts have become a trend to see more and more alarming. These attacks range from partial or total destruction of schools or medical facilities to military use of buildings, and attacks against staff.

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Not only will these attacks endanger the lives of the children, but also disrupt their learning, and limit their access to health care, which can have an impact life in their education, economic opportunities and health in general.

In the Philippines, for example, the siege of Marawi between may and October of 2017 led to the destruction of more than 20 schools, depriving them of access to education to more than 22,000 children.

4. Rape or other sexual violence against children

Millions of women and children around the world live with the terrifying threat of sexual violence in conflicts every day. In times of war, are subjected to rape, sexual slavery or trafficking of persons, marriages, and forced pregnancy, or forced sterilizations. In some cases, sexual violence is used intentionally to humiliate a population or to force people to leave their homes.

Some armed groups, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, often specifically target girls, who are raped, forced to become wives of fighters, or used to perpetrate suicide bombings. In February of 2018, for example, the group kidnapped 110 girls and one boy of a technical institute in Dapchi, Yobe state, most of which have been released since then.

The widespread stigma around rape and sexual violence means that it is an issue that affects children in conflict that are rarely reported, but it is clear that this violation is still far too common and both boys and girls are in danger.

5. Abduction of children

In areas affected by armed conflicts, children are often captured or abducted against their will, either temporary or permanent, and subjected to exploitation or abuse.

In many cases, children who are kidnapped are also victims of other grave violations, such as murder, mutilation, sexual violence or recruitment by armed groups. They can also be kept as hostages or detained arbitrarily.

The parties to the conflict also kidnap children as an intentional act of violence or retaliation against the civilian population. In 2017, there was an increase of 70 per cent in the case of abducted children. Only in Somalia, the islamist group Al-Shabab abducted more than 1,600 children with the main objective of increasing their ranks by using children in combat and as support.

6. Denial of humanitarian access to children

In conflicts around the world, the armed forces and armed groups block humanitarian assistance to prevent it from reaching millions of people, many of them children, in need desperately of help. The warring parties often deny humanitarian actors access to those in need, or prevent that the assistance reaches the civilian population. Civilians also are deprived of the aid when the aid workers are attacked and treated as a threat.

In Syria, for example, the withdrawal of medical kits and surgical supplies from aid convoys, the restrictions on medical evacuations and the murder of medical personnel, means that access to critical medical care, and is vital for many civilians, decreases day-to-day.

Since 2010, the documented incidents of denial of humanitarian access have increased by more than 1,500 per cent, according to an analysis of Save the Children UN figures.

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