Date Published: 12 June 2013
Armed conflict disrupts children's lives - UNICEF Report
Attacks and threats against schools must stop, asserted UNICEF in a recent item posted online.
According to the international children's organization UNICEF, children living in armed conflict today face unprecedented threats. These include grave violations such as the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, sexual violence against children, killing and maiming of children, and recurrent attacks on hospitals and schools.
Such violations have been highlighted in the latest annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.
It is widely agreed that the continuing trend of schools being attacked and used for military purposes is particularly unacceptable. In conflict, schools must be seen by children, parents and families as protected safe havens where children can learn and grow to their full potential, while benefitting from a sense of normalcy in a context that is anything but normal for children.
The UNICEF report mentions incidents in several countries in which schools and education personnel have been attacked or schools used as military barracks, weapons storage facilities, command centres, detention and interrogation sites, and firing and observation positions. These actions not only put children's lives at risk, but they also hamper the children's right to an education and result in reduced enrolment and high drop-out rates, especially among girls.
Examples from areas mentioned in the report include:
- Syria - 1000s of children have suffered due to shelling, missile firing and heavy aerial and artillery bombardment of schools, hospitals and homes. There has been use of car and other bombs near schools, resulting in the death and injury to children. 167 education personnel, including 69 teachers, were reported killed up to the end of February 2013 and 2,445 schools reported damaged. In some areas, children have not been to school in over 18 months.
- Afghanistan - targeted attacks against schools were reported, including improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks, burned schools and the abduction and killing of education personnel. Acts of intimidation, threats against teachers and students, and the forced closure of schools were also reported. 10 cases of use of schools for military purposes in Afghanistan are noted in the report.
- Mali - the take-over of northern Mali by armed groups in 2012 had a devastating effect on children's access to education. The report notes that 115 schools were looted, damaged, bombed, used for military purposes or contaminated with unexploded ordnance. As of February 2013, 86% of students still in the north still do not have access to education.
UNICEF uses the opportunity of the publication of the Secretary-General's Report to assert its view that all parties to armed conflict must do everything possible to ensure the safety of children and the protection of their rights.
The full report is available at http://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org