Violations against children increased in 2018: UN

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The United Nations (UN) Secretary General is disheartened at the increasing level of grave violations committed against children; as documented in his 2018 Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict. During the reporting period, the UN verified some 24 000 grave violations committed against children in 20 country situations while thousands more were pending verification due to resources and access constraints.

More than 12 000 children were killed and injured in armed conflicts in 2018 with Afghanistan, the Palestinian situation, Syria and Yemen topping the list of casualties.

It’s the name and shame report by the UN.

The report is an annual exercise to list both state and non-state actors to conflicts that violate the rights of children through recruitment, killing and maiming among other violations. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict ,Virginia Gamba, says 2018 provided the highest numbers on record.

“This is the highest number we’ve ever recorded since 2005 on this violation and if I have to say very quickly; between 2017 and 2018, all violations are decreasing, all of them except one which is sexual violence against children which is exactly the same amount as the year before. So that is a plateau that has to be broken and we’re not making any in-roads into breaking that plateau. The rest have all decreased but killing and maiming has gone up.”

Afghanistan topped the list with over 3 000 casualties while attacks in Syria, which include air strikes, barrel bombs and other munitions; killed or injured almost 1 900 children.

The report also points at Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition continues its military confrontation with the Houthi rebel movement, accounting for almost 1 700 children bearing the brunt of ground fighting and other offences. The UN also pointed to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with almost 2 800 injured including the killing of 59 Palestinian and six Israeli children.

While of the situations in Africa, Somalia has presented a red flag for the UN. Gamba says that the utmost must be done to reverse the situation in Somalia.

“The one situation that really to my mind is the worst one; the one where we have to do our utmost to try to reverse, is Somalia. And I just want to tell you sometimes when one focuses violation against violation in a list of six by country, you will see huge numbers on one violation and very little on the others. The only one situation where all the numbers are very high, all of them, all the violations on all the categories is Somalia. So I want to just make a plea right to keep an eye on Somalia, if anyone can assist us in engaging in Somalia.”

Human rights groups have complained that, despite the country situations provided the Afghan National Army, the US-led international forces in Afghanistan and the parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have not been listed in the annex of the report.

Gamba explained it was the SGs prerogative whom to list but added she’d been given an additional mandate.

“The SG has given a new order and I can read it to you: ‘I request my special representative to further examine the cases of maiming and injuries causes by Israeli forces and urge Israel to immediately put in place preventive and protective measures to end the excessive use of force. I call upon the Al Quds and Al Qassam Brigades to immediately cease the recruitment and use of children which we have verified and I further request my special representative to further examine recruitment and use by armed groups.’”

Rights groups also highlighted that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen was listed in a category of parties taking steps to improve despite overwhelming evidence of large-scale attacks on children in 2018.