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On Children and Armed Conflict

(FILE) An 11-year-old Ukrainian girl walks near her building destroyed by a Russian military strike.

In times of conflict, it is the civilian populations that suffer most. This is particularly true of children.

On Children and Armed Conflict
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In times of conflict, it is the civilian populations that suffer most. This is particularly true of children. In many conflict zones, children are abducted, exploited for labor and for sex, forced into combat, left homeless, killed and maimed.

“Children, especially girls, have been subjected to alarming rates of gender-based violence,” said U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations Richard Mills. “We are especially distressed by the 41 percent increase worldwide in the abduction of girls, who are then commonly subjected to gender-based violence such as forced marriages, rape, and other forms of sexual violence.”

“Children in conflict zones face acute protection challenges,” said Ambassador Mills. “In Ethiopia, thousands of children have been forced from their homes, separated from their families, and subjected to sexual violence.” In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime has had an especially devastating impact on girls.

“Patterns of child, early, and forced marriage and recruitment have been crippling to the physical and emotional well-being of children and youth. Girls have been particularly impacted as there have been instances amounting to early and unsafe pregnancies,” said Ambassador Mills.

Then there is Russia’s war on Ukraine.

“In Ukraine, Russia’s brutal full-scale invasion is having a devastating impact on children … namely the issuance of Russian Federation passports to unaccompanied children from Ukraine during wartime,” said Ambassador Mills.

“It has been widely reported that Russia is engaged in extensive relocation of Ukraine’s children within Russia-controlled and Russia-occupied territories of Ukraine, as well as the transfer of children to Russia itself, and, in some cases, the deportation of children from Ukraine for the purpose of Russification and adoption by or placement with families in Russia,” he said.

Indeed, a report published in mid-February by Yale University, in a collaboration with the U.S. Department of State, confirms that the Russian government has abducted and systematically relocated at least 6,000 children from Ukraine to a network of at least 43 re-education and adoption facilities stretching from the Crimean peninsula to Russia proper and into Siberia. Such an endeavor would constitute a war crime.

“When we take preventative steps to protect children, we are protecting and safeguarding our collective future,” said Ambassador Mills. “To prevent future violations and abuses against children, we must make clear to those who commit these acts that they will be held accountable.”