UNICEF says it is shocked by the scale of attacks on children living in conflict zones around the world last year. In its latest report the agency said there was widespread and blatant disregard for the international laws that were created to ensure the most vulnerable were protected. Manuel Fontaine of UNICEF says that children were actively being targeted in their homes, at schools and in their playground and such brutality cannot become the “new normal”
Conflict zones are where the violence takes place
The report says the conflict zones where children suffered the most last year were in the Central African Republic where children were regularly raped, kidnapped and recruited to join armed militias as violence dramatically increased. In North-East Nigeria and Cameroon, Boko Haram the Islamist militant group forced at least 135 children to serve as suicide bombers. In Myanmar the violence against Rohingya children was both shocking and widespread. In South Sudan an astonishing 19,000 children were forced to join armed groups and the conflict in Yemen left at least 5,000 children dead or injured last year. In Eastern Ukraine, nearly a quarter of a million children live under the constant threat of unexploded landmines that were left over from the war.
Children actively targeted
Mr Fontaine says that children are actively being targeted or suffer from exposure to brutal violence or attacks in their homes, schools and playgrounds. He adds that we should not become accustomed to the violence as these attacks continue to occur year after year. According to the report in some places even after being released by extremist groups, the children suffer further abuse from state security forces. Millions of children are malnourished and are suffering from disease and trauma, particularly when they are denied access to food, water and sanitation as a result of conflict.
Agency urges compliance with international law
UNICEF is urging all parties to immediately comply with their obligations under international law and put a stop to violations perpetrated against children and the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure including schools and hospitals. The agency is calling on states that have influence over the participants in the conflict to use that influence to ensure that children remain protected.