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2019 ends ‘deadly decade’ for children living in conflict zones: UNICEF

Children watch as army tanks are transported on trucks in the outskirts of the town of Akcakale, in Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, at he border of Syria, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

This year capped off a “deadly decade” for children in conflict zones, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Monday.

In a statement, UNICEF said it has recorded more than 170,000 “grave violations” against children living in conflict zones since 2010, the equivalent of more than 45 violations every day for the last 10 years.

According to the United Nations, “grave violations” include the killing and maiming of children, the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups, sexual violence, attacks against schools or hospitals, abduction and the denial of humanitarian access.

READ MORE: 33 per cent of all children under 5 are undernourished or overweight, UN says

According to a report published in 2018 by Save the Children, the increase in reported violations against children is mainly due to a lack of monitoring and reporting, an increase in urban warfare, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and an increase in conflict intensity, duration and complexity.

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“Unless urgent action is taken, the long-term impact of this will be devastating,” the report says. “We will lose many more children to armed violence in the years to come, and millions will suffer lifelong physical and psychological trauma and disabilities.”

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According to Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, 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,” she said. “For every act of violence against children that creates headlines and cries of outrage, there are many more that go unreported.”

Fore said the number of countries experiencing conflict is the highest it has been since 1989, when the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted to enshrine the protection of children in conflict in international law.

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By the numbers

In 2018, UNICEF recorded 24,000 violations against children, 2.5 times more than were recorded in 2010.

The agency says attacks and violence against children have not let up this year.

In the first half of 2019, the UN verified 10,000 violations; however, it projects actual numbers will be much higher.

READ MORE: 800,000 children forced from homes by Boko Haram, UNICEF says

According to the Save the Children report, the number of minors living in a conflict zone has increased by more than 75 per cent since the 1990s.

The report said in 1995, approximately 200 million children were living in a conflict zone.

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By 2016, that number had increased to 357 million, meaning one in six, or 16 per cent, of the world’s children were living in a conflict zone.

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Researchers said 165 million of those were living in “high intensity conflict zones.”

The report identified Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria as the five most dangerous countries for children in 2016.

A trend

While there has been notable progress in some areas — namely in tackling deadly weapons and the release of children associated with armed forces — researchers said the data shows an increaing number of violations reported.

READ MORE: At least 652 children were killed in Syria in 2016, UNICEF says

“The conduct of hostilities in conflict around the world and elsewhere is putting more children at greater risk than we have seen for decades,” the report reads.

Researchers also identified a number of trends seen in the 2010s.

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Researchers found that there has been a 300 per cent increase in the number of children being maimed or killed since 2010, the number of incidents of denial of humanitarian access has risen 1,500 per cent during the same time period, and there has been a growing trend of abductions.

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The report said the “nature of modern conflict is changing” in a way that protects soldiers more than civilians.

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