Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict

Millions of Children Caught in Conflict, Victims and Targets of Despicable Harm

© UN / Virginia Gamba

Boys and girls living in countries affected by armed conflict have been victims of widespread violations in 2016, as documented in the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict (A/72/361) released today and covering the period from January to December 2016.

The alarming scale and severity of violations against children in 2016 – including shocking levels of killing and maiming, recruitment and use and denial of humanitarian access – is a serious concern for the Secretary-General.

“The tragic fate of child victims of conflict cannot and must not leave us unmoved; a child killed, recruited as a soldier, injured in an attack or prevented from going school due to a conflict is already one too many,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba, said.

Children from countries such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, suffer an unacceptable level of violations by parties to conflict, with at least 4,000 verified violations committed by Government Forces and over 11,500 by non-State armed groups in the 20 country situations covered in the report.

In Syria alone, the number of children recruited and used during the reporting period more than doubled compared to 2015, with 851 verified cases. In Somalia, this number reached 1,915 children recruited and used. Afghanistan recorded the highest number of verified child casualties since the UN started documentation of civilian casualties in 2009, with 3,512 children killed or maimed in 2016, an increase of 24% compare to the previous year.

Abhorrent tactics used by armed groups like Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, ISIL and the Taliban, have included sexual violence and the use of children as human bombs. In Nigeria, the majority of children casualties resulted from the use of children as human bombs and deaths by suicide attacks.

“The level of violations against children is completely unacceptable and merely indicative of the scale of suffering of children as access constraints limit our ability to have the full picture,” Ms. Gamba said. “Such abuses have a dramatic impact, not only on the lives of children, but also on the social fabric of society in affected countries and on global peace and security,” she added.

The denial of humanitarian access by armed groups and Government forces was a disturbing trend in the report, with devastating consequences for children. Attacks on schools and hospitals have also been widely documented in 2016, occurring in almost all countries on the children and armed conflict agenda and depriving thousands of children of their right to education.

In Yemen, a total of at least 1,340 children were killed or maimed. The same happened in Syria to at least 1,299 children.

Detention of children by government forces or armed groups has also been widespread during the reporting period including in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Israel and State of Palestine, Libya, Nigeria and Somalia. The report emphasized that children should be treated primarily as victims, not as perpetrators, and that international juvenile justice standards should apply.

Abductions, included for the second year as a trigger for listing in the annexes of the Annual Report, also showed an increase in documented incidents. In Central African Republic, reported cases almost doubled compared to 2015, with 98 children abducted. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a total of 193 children were abducted, leading to the listing of three new non-state armed groups. (...)


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