By Robin Gomes
More than 10,000 children were killed or maimed in conflict last year while more than 8,000 youngsters were recruited or used as combatants, a United Nations report said last week.
The annual report, “Children and Armed Conflict” (CAAC) released on June 27 pointed out that a total of more than 21,000 violations of children's rights were reported in 2017 — a sharp increase from the previous year.
UN chief outraged
“Boys and girls have once again been overly impacted by protracted and new violent crisis. Despite some progress, the level of violations remains unacceptable,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres lamented in a statement issued by his spokesman.
“The Secretary-General reiterates that the best way to address this horrific situation is to promote peaceful solutions to conflicts. He calls on all parties to exert maximum efforts in this regard,” the statement said.
The report covers 20 countries, including strife-torn regions such as Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, but also situations in countries such as India, the Philippines and Nigeria.
The UN blames a US-backed Arab coalition fighting in Yemen for at least half of the more than 1,300 child deaths or injuries recorded in the poor nation. Among the casualties tallied in the report were child soldiers as young as 11 fighting in Yemen's civil war and in other countries, the UN said.
21,000 grave violations
Virginia Gamba, the UN’s expert on Children and Armed Conflict told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York that “among the most significant violations registered in 2017 were killing and maiming, recruitment and use and attacks on schools and hospitals, all of which registered a rise in comparison to the previous year.”
Overall, the UN verified more than of children’s rights between January and December 2017, compared with 15,500 the previous year. Government forces committed at least 6,000 of these crimes while the majority involved various non-state armed groups.
Gamba pointed out that “serious increases” were registered in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. She spoke about the “despicable trend” of turning children in Nigeria into “human bombs”, where nearly half of the 881 verified child casualties resulted from suicide attacks.
Another worrying trend was the number of children detained for their alleged association with terrorist groups.
On the positive side, Gamba reported developments, such as the formal release of more than 10,000 child soldiers from armed groups and forces, while four armed groups in Myanmar have agreed to work with her Office. (Source: UN/AP)