Armed conflict has a devastating impact on children. According to a United Nations report released on July 18, there were 23,982 verified grave violations against children in 2021, with nearly one-third of child victims being a girl. Abduction of, and sexual violence against, children increased by 20 percent over the last year, where girls accounted for 98 per cent of the survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence.
“This year’s annual Children and Armed Conflict report provides a sobering snapshot of how conflict impacts children,” said Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, U.S. Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs.
“In Ethiopia, thousands of children have been forced from their homes, separated from their families, and subjected to sexual violence,” he noted.
Similarly in Yemen, the conflict “caused enormous suffering for children, including denial of humanitarian access and children killed, maimed, subjected to sexual violence, recruited, and used in the conflict.”
Then there is Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine, which “has added another dark chapter in the assault on children,” said Ambassador DeLaurentis.
“Children in Ukraine are increasingly in danger as Russia’s forces strike a growing number of hospitals and schools. Russia’s forces reportedly have forcibly deported more than a million Ukrainian civilians to Russia via processing through so-called “filtration,” including over 260,000 children. Meanwhile, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights touts new efforts by the Kremlin to fast-track the adoption of children from Ukraine within Russia.”
That said, there is also some good news. According to the UN report, 12,214 children were released from armed groups in several countries, including the Central African Republic, Colombia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, . At the same time, the humanitarian truce in northern Ethiopia is encouraging, as is the truce in Yemen. The hope is that all parties take advantage of the respite from violence to advance talks toward a durable ceasefire.
Nonetheless, “It is clear we have not done enough to protect children from the impacts of conflict,” said Ambassador DeLaurentis. “When we take steps to protect children, we are protecting and safeguarding our collective future and actively taking steps to end enduring conflicts. Protecting children is a critical piece to maintaining international peace and security.”