By Robin Gomes
It is indeed a sad reality that children are the most vulnerable victims of armed conflicts and their consequences. The six most common violations on the lives and dignity of children are their recruitment and use in war, killing, sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access.
To draw attention to this phenomenon, the United Nation instituted the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.
The origin of the day goes back to August 19, 1982, when the UN General Assembly held an emergency session on the question of Palestine. Horrified at the great number of innocent Palestinian and Lebanese children victims of Israel’s acts of aggression, it decided to commemorate the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression each year on June 4.
The purpose of the day is to acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse.
With this commemoration, the UN affirms its commitment to protecting the rights of children. Its work is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history.
420 million children in conflict zones
According to the London-based international charity, Save the Children, some 420 million children, or nearly one-fifth of them worldwide, are living in conflict situations.
The Stop the War on Children report of February 2020, commissioned by Save the Children, notes that 142 million children are living in high-intensity conflict-zones; that is, in conflict zones with more than 1,000 battle-related deaths.
In armed conflicts, it is the children who are most affected. They are recruited in wars, their schools are attacked, and they are often sexually exploited, abducted and killed.
Hundreds of thousands of children are dying every year as a result of indirect effects of conflict – including malnutrition, disease and the breakdown of healthcare, water and sanitation.
Children living in Africa are the worst affected, with 170 million living in war zones followed by the Middle East.
According to the Stop the War on Children report, the 10 worst conflict-affected countries for children are Afghanistan, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen
Since 2011, the civil war in Syria has killed more than 29,000, according to a recent joint report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights and Anadolu Agency. The UN says 6.7 million Syrians have left the country, including 2.5 million children.
UNICEF reports that while one out of three children cannot receive education, many of them continue their lives without the necessary health facilities.
A report by Human Rights Watch says that 2.6 million children have been forcibly displaced within the country and about 2 million children are out of school.
The Children of Syria report released in March, says that four out of five people in Syria live below the poverty line, making them more vulnerable to be recruited as child soldiers, child labourers, and to be forced into child marriage.
Children and SDGs
The UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda targeted to be achieved by 2030, provides a universal masterplan to secure a better future for children. The 16th goal of the agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is dedicated to peace, justice and strong institutions. Target 2 pledges to “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.” These issues have been mainstreamed across several other violence-related targets.