Children by the thousands forced to act as soldiers, victimized by war in 2020


More than 8,500 children were used as soldiers last year in various conflicts across the world and nearly 2,700 others were killed, the United Nations said on Monday.

UN chief Antonio Guterres’s annual report to the Security Council on children and armed conflict covers the killing, maiming and sexual abuse of children, abduction or recruitment, denial of aid access and targeting of schools and hospitals.

The report confirmed that violations were committed against 19,379 children in 21 conflicts in 2020, with the greatest number of violations committed in Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.

It found that 8,521 children were used as soldiers last year, while another 2,674 children were killed and 5,748 injured in various conflicts.

One out of every four victims of grave violations were girls, who were mostly the victims of sexual violence. 

Report also includes blacklist

On the other side of the issue, at least 12,643 children were released by armed groups and forces in 2020 following UN engagement with the countries involved. 

The report also includes a blacklist intended to shame parties to conflicts in the hope of pushing them to implement measures to protect children. The list has long been controversial with diplomats saying Saudi Arabia and Israel both exerted pressure in recent years in a bid to stay off the list.

Israel has never been listed, while a Saudi-led military coalition was removed from the list in 2020 several years after it was first named and shamed for killing and injuring children in Yemen.

In an effort to dampen controversy surrounding the report, the blacklist released in 2017 by Guterres was split into two categories. One lists parties that have put in place measures to protect children and the other includes parties that have not.

There were few significant changes to the lists released on Monday. The only state parties named on the list for not putting measures in place are Myanmar’s military — for killing, maiming and sexual violence against children — and Syrian government forces — for recruitment of children, killing, maiming and sexual violence against children and attacks on schools and hospitals.

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