UN: In 2017 Children in Conflict Zones Came Under Attack at ‘Shocking’ Scale

Rohingya children queuing for aid suplies at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar. Photo: AFP

The United Nations Childrens’ Fund (UNICEF) said Thursday that children in conflict zones around the world have come under attack at “a shocking scale” throughout 2017, with parties to conflicts “blatantly disregarding” international laws designed to protect the most vulnerable.

“Children are being targeted and exposed to attacks and brutal violence in their homes, schools and playgrounds,” UNICEF Director of Emergency Programs Manuel Fontaine said in a statement. “As these attacks continue year after year, we cannot become numb. Such brutality cannot be the new normal.”

Throughout the year, children have been used as human shields, recruited to fight, killed, maimed and raped, according to UNICEF. Cases of forced marriage, abduction and enslavement have also become prominent in places like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan and Myanmar.

The agency noted that in some cases, after release by extremist groups children experienced abuse by security forces.

In 2017, at least 5,000 children died or got injured in Yemen fighting, while hundreds more had been used as human shields, trapped under siege or targeted by snipers in Iraq in Syria, U.N. statistics showed.

Boko Haram has forced at least 135 children to act as suicide bombers in Nigeria and Cameroon – a number five times higher than in 2016.

During the first nine months of the year, almost 700 children were killed in Afghanistan, while in Somalia, 1,740 minors got recruited to fight, U.N. added.

“UNICEF calls on all parties to conflict to abide by their obligations under international law to immediately end violations against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals,” the agency’s statement said.

“UNICEF also calls on States with influence over parties to conflict to use that influence to protect children.”