By Vatican News staff reporter
As annual reports go, the U.N. Secretary General’s findings to the Security Council on children and armed conflict make for grim reading.
The United Nations said on Monday that more than 8,500 children were used as soldiers last year in various conflicts around the world and nearly 2,700 others were killed.
The new report gives a detailed account of the killing, maiming and sexual abuse of children, abduction or recruitment, and denial of aid access.
The findings confirmed that violations had been committed against 19,379 children. Most of the violations in 2020 were committed in Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.
In addition, the report revealed that attacks on schools and hospitals “remained excessively high”.
It also showed that girls made up a quarter of all child victims of grave violations and were mostly affected by rape and other forms of sexual violence.
Speaking about the report, Virginia Gamba, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict said, “The wars of adults have taken away the childhood of millions of boys and girls again in 2020. This is completely devastating for them, but also for the entire communities they live in, and destroys chances for a sustainable peace.”
Despite the startling statistics, the report shows concrete progress in dialogues with warring parties in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Sudan and Syria.
Armed groups and forces also freed more than 12,643 children from their ranks following UN intervention.
But the report did underline that progress has been made as child protection capacities on the ground are both overstretched and underfunded.
Pope Francis’ call
Speaking on the issue of child soldiers in 2016, Pope Francis said, “we must do everything possible so that the dignity of children may be respected, and end this form of slavery.”