As the year that saw millions of kids caught up in armed conflicts throughout the world drew to a close on Friday, the UN Children’s Fund cautioned that severe breaches against children are on the rise and urged all parties involved to work toward a more peaceful 2022.
While data for 2021 is not yet available, the United Nations confirmed 26,425 severe crimes against children in 2020.
Grave violations, according to the agency, include murder and maiming, recruitment and use of child soldiers, sexual violence, attacks on schools or hospitals, abduction, and denial of humanitarian aid.
UNICEF has documented nearly 266,000 grave violations against children in over 30 conflicts in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America during the last 16 years.
Thousands of children have died as a result of armed war, intercommunal violence, and insecurity across the world, from Afghanistan to Yemen, Syria to northern Ethiopia. Afghanistan has had the largest number of documented child casualties since 2005, with over 28,500—accounting for 27% of all verified child casualties worldwide.
Meanwhile, the Middle East and North Africa region has seen the most confirmed attacks on schools and hospitals since 2005, with 22 such incidents confirmed in the first half of this year.
Last month, the United Nations Development Program predicted that the death toll from Yemen’s seven-year civil war and US-backed Saudi-led intervention would exceed 377,000 by the end of the year, with 70% of those killed being children under the age of five.
Explosive weapons are a constant and growing danger to children and their families, especially in populated regions. Nearly half of all child deaths in 2020 were caused by explosive weapons and explosive leftovers of conflict, with more than 3,900 children dead or wounded. In 2021, children in conflict zones and elsewhere faced widespread starvation.
UNICEF has encouraged all 61 parties to conflicts recognized by the United Nations to commit to detailed action plans and take specific steps to protect children. Preventing major violations in the first place, releasing children from armed forces and groups, safeguarding children from sexual abuse, and stopping attacks on hospitals and schools are all examples of these.
In the end, children who have been exposed to violence will be safe only if parties to the conflict take meaningful steps to safeguard them and stop committing severe abuses. As the year came to a conclusion, the United Nations called on all warring parties to stop attacking children, respect their rights, and work toward peaceful political solutions.