Save the Children calls on the UK to endorse a declaration on avoiding the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
LONDON, November 20 – A total of 93,236 children[i] have been killed or maimed in conflicts in the last 10 years, Save the Children revealed today. That means 25 children, the equivalent of an average-sized classroom full of pupils, killed or injured[ii] every single day for the past decade.
Many were victims of airstrikes, artillery shelling, landmines and other explosive weapons used in populated areas where families have been ripped apart and tens of thousands of children left dead or with life-changing injuries.
Last year alone, more than a third of the verified child casualties were caused by explosive weapons – with the number dramatically higher in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
Marking World Children’s Day, the stark figures are part of a new Save the Children report, Killed and Maimed: A Generation Of Violations Against Children In Conflict.
The report also reveals that in 2019[iii] some 426 million children lived in a conflict-affected area – a slight increase on the year before. Around 160 million children lived in a high-intensity conflict zone[iv], also an increase compared to 2018.
The impact of explosive weapons on children is complex, robbing families of their hopes and dreams, and their ability to access vital services, and often profoundly altering the direction of a child’s life.
15-year-old Mohammad* lives in the Afghan province of Mazar with his grandfather. He found an explosive item in front of his school and brought it home. When he tried to open it, the item exploded, wounding him and his cousin. After days in a clinic, he found his hand had been amputated.
“When I realized my hand was amputated, I got upset. I became sad, wishing I hadn’t picked up that round and brought it home so that my hand would not have been amputated. [In the clinic] I saw many others whose legs had been amputated. After the incident, I was terrified. Sometimes I would have nightmares and used to tell my brother to come. I could not sleep alone in a room. When I go somewhere, I would like to be confident so that when I talk, it would not come to my mind that I do not have a hand.”
Dr David Henson, MBE, is a father of three, parasport athlete, former Royal Marine, and double amputee, who now focuses on developing the new generation of prosthetics specially designed for children injured by explosive weapons. He is a founding member of the Paediatric Blast Injuries Partnership – a joint venture between Imperial College London and Save the Children – set up to bring together medics, researchers, and humanitarians to help save the lives of children in conflict.
“Part of the reality of contemporary war is that children get caught in the middle, I have seen it with my own eyes,” said Dr Henson. “As a father and veteran, I have made it my life’s work to help protect victims of war. This means providing the best possible treatment at the point of injury, and where amputations are unavoidable, providing children with prosthetics that grow as they themselves grow, allowing them to run, skip and play – things every child should be able to do.”
The report launched by Save the Children today is the fourth in a series entitled Stop the War on Children. It shines a spotlight on the six grave violations[v] committed against children in conflict zones.
Over the past decade, more than 200,000 such violations were verified. The record was broken in 2019, which saw 26,233 grave violations committed. The actual number is likely to be even higher as some violations, notably sexual and gender-based violence, are grossly underreported.
Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children UK, said:
“Behind the stark numbers are countless stories of the child victims of war. Many are casualties of the blatant disregard for international laws and standards, and governments who turn a blind eye. This cannot go on, and the UK must use its influence to ensure children affected by conflict are protected from harm. To make sure this happens, we call on the UK to endorse a political declaration on avoiding the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and to make sure British allies follow our example.
“This weekend, the world’s richest and most powerful leaders – including Boris Johnson – gather for a virtual G20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia. Just next door, millions of vulnerable children in Yemen don’t know where their next meal will come from or if they will survive the next airstrike or artillery shelling. This is an opportunity for world leaders to use their influence and their voice to make the right choice, and to stop the war on children.”
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the focus should be on fighting the virus, warring parties continue killing and maiming children. The UN called for a global ceasefire back in July, endorsed by 170 countries, but since then 177 children have been killed and maimed in Yemen[vi], dozens have been killed or badly injured in Afghanistan, the violence in DRC has spiked, and children in Myanmar are frequent victims of the fighting there.
Earlier this year, the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition was taken off the UN’s ‘list of shame’, which calls out perpetrators of grave violations against children. The coalition was delisted even though children in Yemen are still bombed almost daily, Save the Children said.
Mr Watkins continued: “Never in human history have we been more aware of child rights violations – bombings are verified, recruitment is documented, and we see children starving on TV when they are denied aid. We have the means to prevent children from being harmed but we continue to see unbelievable violations, year on year. It is as if the world has stopped caring.”
The report Killed and Maimed also outlined that, in 2019[vii]:
- The most dangerous countries for children in conflict are Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Nigeria, DRC, Mali, Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, and Sudan.
- More than 3 million children were living in an area where violence had been raging for 18 years or more.
- The number of children recruited by armed forces rose by 639 in 2018, to 7,845 in 2019. Over 3,100 children were found to have been recruited in the Democratic Republic of Congo alone.
- Humanitarian organisations were denied access to children more than 4,400 times in – six times more than in 2018.
To limit the disastrous impacts of explosive weapons on children, Save the Children is urgently calling on states, including the UK, to curb the use of the weapons most harmful to children, control the sale of such weapons if they might be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international law, and hold those who disregard international laws and standards to account. Save the Children is also calling for the UK to support an Irish-led political declaration aimed at curbing the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
*names changed to protect identity
For interviews with Dr David Henson MBE, Kevin Watkins + spokespeople from around the world, including Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria, please contact:
+44 7467 096788
+44 7831 650409
MULTIMEDIA CONTENT & CASE STUDIES
1x photo case study, Oleksander*,8, Ukraine: https://www.contenthubsavethechildren.org/Package/2O4C2SALWQG3
1x photo case study, Mohammad*,15, Afghanistan: https://www.contenthubsavethechildren.org/Package/2O4C2SALU0BM
1X DRC photo case study, Victoire*, 10, DRC: https://www.contenthubsavethechildren.org/Package/2O4C2SAGZVYJ
Mohammad*, 15, Afghanistan: https://www.contenthubsavethechildren.org/Package/2O4C2SAGTKUN
Shogofa*, 9, Afghanistan: https://www.contenthubsavethechildren.org/Package/2O4C2SAGTDWH
1x social media edit: https://www.contenthubsavethechildren.org/Package/2O4C2SAGYYLL
[i] Data covers the ten-year period between 2010 and 2019 inclusive. The total number of children killed or maimed in that period (93,236) divided by 3,650 days is 25.54. When looking back over the past 15 years, the number of children killed or injured in conflict jumps to more than 100,000.
[ii] The average classroom size in England and Wales is 27.1 pupils. More here.
[iii] The latest year for which data is available,
[iv] High intensity conflict zones are areas with 1,000 or more battle deaths per year.
[v] The six grave violations are: (1) killing and maiming; (2) recruitment or use of child soldiers; (3) sexual violence; (4) attacks on schools and hospitals; (5) abduction of children; (6) denial of humanitarian aid. More here.
[vi] According to the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project (CIMP), an open source database that monitors civilian casualties in Yemen, 62 children were killed in the conflict in Yemen between 1 July and October 31st. Some 115 children were injured.
[vii] Based on the most recently available UN data
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