Children in conflict zones around the world suffered “at a shocking scale” in 2017 as they became front line targets; used as human shields, killed, maimed and recruited to fight, the United Nation children’s agency said.
The agency accused rival parties in conflict areas of “blatantly” disregarding international laws designed to protect the most vulnerable.
In some contexts, children abducted by armed groups experience abuse once again upon release when they are held by security forces, UNICEF said in a statement on Thursday.
The agency warned that millions more children were paying an indirect price for conflicts, suffering from malnutrition, disease and trauma as basic services, including access to food, water, sanitation and health.
Justin Forsyth, UNICEF’s deputy director, says that, in recent years and even more so in 2017, children are deliberately targeted in conflict zones to make them part of the conflict.
“It had always happened in part, but it seems to be growing and growing,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Our appeal is, as UNICEF, to all fighting parties, whether they are governments or rebel groups, to make sure the children are protected.”
The statement referred to statistics from all over the world.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kasai region, violence has driven 850,000 children from their homes and an estimated 350,000 children have suffered from severe acute malnutrition.
In Yemen, nearly 1,000 days of fighting left at least 5,000 children dead or injured, according to verified data, the agency said, with more than 11 million children in need of humanitarian assistance.
In South Sudan, where conflict and a collapsing economy led to a famine declaration in parts of the country, more than 19,000 children have been recruited into armed forces and armed groups, the statement said. Over 2,300 children have been killed or injured since the conflict first erupted in December 2013.