Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism – More than 19,300 boys and girls affected by war last year were victims of grave violations such as recruitment or rape, and the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for experts to reach them, the UN said in its annual report on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), published on Monday.
Grave violations against children remained “alarmingly high” at nearly 26,500, while the pandemic increased their vulnerability to abduction, recruitment and sexual violence, as well as attacks on schools and hospitals.
“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”, said Virginia Gamba, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on CAAC.
Recruitment and use, as well as killing and maiming of children, were the most prevalent violations in 2020, followed by denial of humanitarian access and abduction, the report said.
More than 8,400 youngsters were killed or maimed in ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, while nearly 7,000 more were recruited and used in fighting, mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Syria and Myanmar.
Meanwhile, attacks on schools and hospitals “remained excessively high”, which included serious attacks perpetrated against girls’ education and against health facilities and personnel. There was also an increase in the military use of schools, as the temporary closure of schools during the pandemic made them easy targets for military occupation and use.
The report further revealed that girls made up a quarter of all child victims of grave violations. They also were mostly affected by rape and other forms of sexual violence, comprising 98 per cent of victims, followed by killing and maiming.
She added,“We need to give children an alternative to violence and abuse: we need peace, respect for child rights and democracy. We need hope in good governance. We need to act to build a future where peace prevails. Please, give children that alternative.”