As protracted and new armed conflicts have continued to rage in 2022, the number of children affected by hostilities has remained shockingly high at almost 19,000 children in the 24 situations and one regional monitoring arrangement on the Children and Armed Conflict Agenda, according to a new report published today. Blatant and systematic disregard for international humanitarian law and international human rights law continues to severely impact the protection of children.
The UN Secretary-General Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict revealed the grim reality faced by these children who were recruited or used, killed, or maimed, raped or victims of sexual violence, or abducted. Their schools and hospitals were damaged or destroyed, and access to aid for children has been repeatedly denied. However, this is sadly only the verifiable tip of the iceberg. The real number is certainly considerably higher, and this realization hints at a much larger and profoundly distressing human tragedy.
In 2022, the number of verified grave violations affecting children in the situation of the CAAC agenda, including those lately added namely Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Ukraine reached 27,180. While non-State armed groups were responsible for 52% of the grave violations overall, Government forces were the main perpetrator particularly in the killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools and hospitals, and the denial of humanitarian access.
“Military operations set in motion due to rebellions, offensives and counter-offensives have led to an increase used of explosive weapons including with wide impact in populated areas, which resulted in an outrageous number of children being killed and maimed and a striking increase of schools and hospitals being damaged, denying children education and access to health services. I remind that all parties to conflict are bound by the principles of impartiality, proportionality, distinction, and humanity as per International Humanitarian Law and should be at the heart of all military planning and action. Civilian populations, and particularly children, are paying the price of armed conflict. We need to reconsider the value of peace for the sake of our children.” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.
The United Nations verified the killing and maiming of over 8,630 children, which represents a 5% increase compared to 2021. The use of explosive ordnance, including ERW, IEDs and landmines, was responsible for over 25% of the killing and maiming of children. With 1,843 incidents verified, the number of attacks on schools and hospitals showed the sharpest increase of all grave violations with over 110%, mainly in Ukraine, Burkina Faso, Israel and the State of Palestine, Myanmar, Mali, and Afghanistan.
“Around the world, children living in situations of armed conflict have been denied their basic rights, including for them to be recognized as a child. The age definition of a child, which is up to 18 years of age as per the International Convention of the Right of the Child, has been ignored by armed groups and governments. By doing so, we are preventing our children from growing safely, accessing their basic rights, and benefitting from an education,” reminded Virginia Gamba.
At least 2,496 children were detained for their actual or alleged association with parties to conflict, making them even more vulnerable to ill-treatment and torture, including sexual violence. “While perpetrators of grave violations must be held to account, we also must not forget that children that have been recruited should be treated primarily as victims and that detention should be used only as a last resort and for the shortest period of time,” stressed the Special Representative. “Age- and gender-appropriate alternatives to detention should be actively sought and reintegration support must be provided,” she added.
Relief for Children Through Engagement with Parties to Conflict and the Pursuit of Peace
While there has been a concerning deterioration in the situations faced by children in some contexts such as Myanmar, South Sudan or Burkina Faso, progress made in protecting them was also observed. Notably, countries such as Central African Republic, Colombia, Iraq, Nigeria, and Yemen, among others, demonstrated proactive efforts to safeguard children, including engagement with parties to conflict. (...) More