LONDON, UK, November 30, 2021 / APO Group / –
A record number of almost 200 million children.[i] They live in the world’s deadliest war zones[ii] many of whom are already at risk of climate change and face unprecedented levels of hunger, reveals a new Save the Children report.
Save the Children’s sixth report examining trends in conflict between boys and girls found that the number of people living in the midst of deadly conflict in 13 countries increased by 20% in 2020 from 162 million the previous year, which shows that a global pandemic and the United Nations call for a global ceasefire were not enough. to stop these wars.
This sharp increase was partly due to outbreaks of violence in Mozambique, as well as ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Yemen, which are already on the front lines of the worst impacts of climate change. and face life-threatening hunger crises.
The report, “Stop the War on Children: A Recruitment Crisis,” also revealed that 337 million children lived near armed groups and government forces that recruit children, a three-fold increase from three decades ago (99 million in 1990). The number of countries where children are recruited and where more than half of the world’s children live (almost 1.3 billion) also rose to 39, its highest level in 30 years.
According to the new analysis, Afghanistan,[iii] Syria, Yemen, the Philippines and Iraq have the highest percentage of children living near an armed group or force that has recruited them, leaving them at the highest risk of being recruited.
Poverty and the inability to attend school, factors that have only worsened with the pandemic, are some of the reasons why children are more vulnerable to recruitment by armed forces and groups, where their duties can range from the fight at the front until the manning of checkpoints. Many are also drawn to these groups in search of a sense of belonging, protection from abuse, status, or revenge.
While girls only accounted for 15% of recruitment cases reported by the UN in 2020, they are often targeted to act as spies, to plant mines and improvised explosive devices, or to act as suicide bombers because they are less likely to attract attention. Their vulnerability, low status, and gender also make them susceptible to widespread abuse.
Children who are used by armed forces and groups are at increased risk of injury, disability, chronic mental or physical illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual violence, and death.
“We were swimming in the river when people forcibly took us into the forest. They tortured us, beat us and taught us to kill and kidnap people. We have suffered a lot, ”said 17-year-old Jean *, who was forced to join an armed group in the Democratic Republic of Congo before being rescued by Save the Children’s partner organization KUA. “When I was in the forest, I felt very bad. I was very scared. My life was difficult. “
Inger Ashing, Executive Director of Save the Children International, said:
“It is simply horrifying that in the shadow of COVID-19 and the UN call for a global ceasefire, more children than ever are caught in the crosshairs of the deadliest war zones, where they already face the most droughts, floods and famine. “And more likely to be injured, recruited, or killed.” Not even a global pandemic was enough to stop the most brutal wars and atrocities.
“Millions of children have known nothing but war with dire consequences for their mental health, their ability to go to school or their access to life-saving services. This is a stain on the international community and it cannot continue.
“We know that we can address the greatest challenges of our time and make remarkable progress when we work together, such as the recent development of COVID vaccines. Now we have to do the same to protect children from the horrors of conflict. “
The report also reveals that:
More than 450 million children worldwide, or 1 in 6, lived in a conflict zone, a 5% increase from 2019 and the highest number in 20 years. The number of conflicts in 2020 was identical to that of 2019. The number of armed groups that recruited children increased during the pandemic to 110, compared to 85 in 2019. The UN verified almost 8,600 cases of recruitment and use of children in 2020, approximately 25 a day, despite the global pandemic, a 10% increase over the previous year. However, these numbers are likely to represent only a fraction of the actual cases. Interviews with 40 Save the Children staff in 14 countries and regions on the situation of children found that: Many children have only known conflict, with serious impacts on their mental health; Children in conflict are the most affected by weakened or collapsed economies and lack of access to basic services, which has only worsened with COVID-19; Rarely is anyone held accountable for atrocities committed against children; Access to education, often one of the first casualties of war, is equally critical to protecting children from conflict-related risks, such as forced recruitment.
Among its recommendations, Save the Children calls on world leaders, security experts, donors, UN members and NGOs to work together to hold the perpetrators of these violations accountable, to ensure that all policies and frameworks relevant legal provisions are ratified and implemented. and ensure that donors and governments prioritize funding for child protection in humanitarian responses, which is at an all-time low, to support conflict-affected children, including those who are recruited.[i] Based on the latest data from 2020. [ii] Conflict zones with more than 1,000 battle-related deaths. [iii] Based on data collected prior to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.
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