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Thursday, February 15

Ahead of Munich Security Conference, new report shows war is becoming more dangerous for children. Save the Children says those who harm them must be held to account.

More children than ever—at least 357 million globally—are now living in areas impacted by conflict, a new report by Save the Children reveals. Nearly half of these children are living in areas affected by high-intensity conflict.[i]

The War on Children: Time to End Violations Against Children in Armed Conflict shows this number has increased by 75 percent since 1991, with one in six children globally now living in areas where they can be vulnerable to the United Nations’ six grave violations of their rights, including: killing and maiming, recruitment and use of children, sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian assistance.

Save the Children UK CEO, Kevin Watkins, said: “The marked increase in the number of children living in conflict-affected areas, combined with the worsening violations against those children by warring parties, should worry all of us.

“We face a stark choice. Do we stand by while more children die in school attacks or in their hospital beds - or are denied life-saving aid - or will we tackle the culture of impunity and end this ‘war on children’?”

The research—undertaken by Save the Children and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)—is being launched ahead of the influential Munich Security Conference on 16-18th February, which is an opportunity for global political, military and security leaders to agree on measures to protect children in conflict.

Our report shows there are significant gaps in child-specific data in conflicts. Despite this, some trends are clear—and deeply worrying.

Since 2010, the number of UN-verified cases of children being killed and maimed has gone up by almost 300 percent, while incidents of denial of humanitarian access have increased by more than 1,500 percent. This has been fuelled by a growing lack of respect for the rules of war, and indiscriminate violence in countries like Syria, South Sudan, and Afghanistan.

The War on Children attributes the worsening situation to the increasing urbanisation of war, the growing use of explosive weapons in populated areas, as well as the protracted and more complex nature of modern conflict that has put more children on the front lines.

It also reveals that:

  • Brutal tactics are being increasingly used to target children in warfare—including the use of children as suicide bombers, direct targeting of schools and hospitals and the widespread use of indiscriminate weapons such as cluster munitions, barrel bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
  • Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia are the most dangerous conflict-affected countries in which to be a child in 2016[ii];
  • Children in the Middle East are most likely to be living in a conflict zone, with 2 in 5 children in that region living in a conflict-affected area—the highest rate globally. Africa is second, with 1 in 5 children affected by conflict. Asia has the highest overall number of children affected by conflict.

Save the Children is calling on states, militaries and all those with influence over the lives of children in conflict to commit to practical actions on four key themes:

  • Preventing children being put at risk: Investments need to be made in peacekeeping, conflict-prevention initiatives and training for military forces on child protection.
  • Uphold international laws and standards: All states and actors should abide by their commitments under international laws, and should endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and Paris Commitments & Paris Principles.[iii] States and armed groups must commit to avoiding the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
  • Holding violators to account: We urgently need stronger monitoring and reporting mechanisms to properly track civilian harm and child casualties, and stronger justice systems that address violations of children’s rights in conflict.
  • Rebuilding shattered lives: Funding for the rebuilding of children’s lives wrecked by conflict must be made available. We must invest in programmes for children affected by conflict, including providing the right mental health support for children, and training local mental health workers.

To sign a petition calling on the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to take action to protect children in one of the most devastating conflicts of our time - the war in Yemen - please visit: http://save.tc/dLU330ieLRD