The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) yesterday alleged that the world had failed to protect children in conflict as widespread violations against kids in conflict continued unabated in 2018.The global body warned that the futures of millions of children living in countries affected by armed conflict are in jeopardy as world leaders fail to hold perpetrators of violence against the young citizens accountable.
In a statement released yesterday, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes, Manuel Fontaine noted that children living in conflict zones around the world have continued to suffer extreme levels of violence over the past 12 months. “For too long, parties to conflict have been committing atrocities with near-total impunity, and it is only getting worse. Much more can and must be done to protect and assist children.”
According to him, children living in countries at war have come under direct attack, have been used as human shields, killed, maimed or recruited to fight. Rape, forced marriage and abduction have become standard tactics in conflicts from Syria to Yemen, and from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to Nigeria, South Sudan and Myanmar.
Fontaine said that in the Lake Chad basin, ongoing conflict, displacement and attacks on schools, teachers and other education facilities had put the education of 3.5 million children at risk. “Today in northeast Nigeria, the Lake region of Chad, extreme north of Cameroon and Diffa region of Niger, at least 1,041 schools are closed or non-functional due to violence, fear of attacks, or unrest, affecting nearly 445,000 children.”
He observed that in 2018, northeast Nigeria, armed groups, including Boko Haram factions, continued to target girls, who are raped, forced to become wives of fighters or used as ‘human bombs’. “In February, the group abducted 110 girls and one boy from a technical college in Dapchi, Yobe State. While most of the children have since been released, five girls died and one is still being held captive as a slave.’’
According to UNICEF, violence and bloodshed remain a daily occurrence in Afghanistan, with some 5,000 children killed or maimed within the first three quarters of 2018, equal to all of 2017, and children making up 89 per cent of civilian casualties from explosive remnants of war.‘’A recent surge in violence in the border region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger has left 1,478 schools closed.
“Cameroon has seen an escalation of violence, with schools, students and teachers often coming under attack. In November, more than 80 people, including many children, were abducted from a school in Nkwen, in the north-west of the country and released a few days later. To date, 93 villages have allegedly been partially or totally burned due to conflict in the areas, with many children experiencing extreme levels of violence.
“ We note that 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, yet today, more countries are embroiled in internal or international conflict than at any other time in the past three decades. Children living through conflict are among the least likely to be guaranteed their rights. Attacks on children must end,” Fontaine said.