Aminat Isah, Abuja
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has called on all warring parties, including Nigeria, to abide by their obligations under international law and to immediately end violations against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and water infrastructure.
The warning note by UNICEF is to stem the tide of violations against children to mark the end of year 2019 which concludes a ‘deadly decade’ for children in conflict torn zones across the world.
According to UNICEF, Children around the world have continued to pay a deadly price as conflicts rage around the world, including in Nigeria’s north-east where the figure is almost 20,000 in the last seven years.
UNICEF also said since the start of the decade, the United Nations has verified more than 170,000 grave violations against children in conflict, an equivalent of more than 45 violations every day for the last 10 years.
Speaking on violation against Children, UNICEF Nigeria’s Acting Representative,Pernille Ironside said, ” Ten years of conflict in Nigeria’s Northeast, closely coinciding with the decade about to end has seen a massive level of violations against Nigeria’s children in the region.
“These include killings, maiming, abductions, rape, severe psychological trauma, and extreme disruption of their education, leaving them vulnerable possibly for the rest of their lives,”
Ironside stressed that Children should never be a target in any armed conflict and everything must be done to protect children when they find themselves in areas of conflict.
” Sadly, this has too often not been the case during the conflict in North-East Nigeria, with children paying the heaviest price for the ongoing crisis,” She said
She further revealed that, beyond Nigeria, the number of countries experiencing conflict is the highest it has been since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, with dozens of violent armed conflicts killing and maiming children and forcing them from their homes.
Similarly speaking, UNICEF’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore noted that conflicts around the world are lasting longer, causing more bloodshed and claiming more young lives.
“Attacks on children continue unabated as warring parties flout one of the most basic rules of war: the protection of children. For every act of violence against children that creates headlines and cries of outrage, there are many more that go unreported,”
In 2018, the UN verified more than 24,000 grave violations against children globally, including killing, maiming, sexual violence, abductions, denial of humanitarian access, child recruitment and attacks on schools and hospitals. While monitoring and reporting efforts have been strengthened, this number is more than two-and-a-half times higher than that recorded in 2010.
More than 12,000 children were killed or maimed globally in 2018, with almost 800 of them in Nigeria’s North-East.
Globally, continued, widespread use of airstrikes and explosive weapons such as landmines, mortars, improvised explosive devices, rocket attacks, cluster munitions and artillery shelling cause the vast majority of child casualties in armed conflict.
Attacks and violence against children have not let up throughout 2019. During the first half of the year, the UN has verified over 10,000 such violations against children – although actual numbers are likely to be much higher. This number is close to 200 children in Nigeria’s North-East crisis.
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