United Nations: The UN in its annual report on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), published on Monday has made a shocking revelation that there were at least 26,425 grave violations against children in 2020.
According to the report, more than 19,300 boys and girls affected by war last year were victims of grave violations such as recruitment or rape, and the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for experts to reach them.
"In 2020, the situation of children in armed conflict was marked by a sustained high number of grave violations," the report said. "The United Nations verified 26,425 grave violations, of which 23,946 were committed in 2020 and 2,479 were committed earlier but verified only in 2020."
Violations affected 19,379 children, including 14,097 boys in 21 situations.
The highest numbers of violations were the recruitment and use of 8,521 children, followed by the killing and maiming of 8,422 children and 4,156 incidents of denial of humanitarian access, the report said.
Children were detained for actual or alleged association with armed groups, including those designated as terrorist groups by the UN.
Escalation of conflict, armed clashes and disregard for international humanitarian law and international human rights law had a severe impact on the protection of children.
Cross-border spillover of conflicts and inter-communal violence affected children, in particular, in the Sahel and Lake Chad basin regions, said the report.
The highest numbers of grave violations were verified in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
Verified cases of abduction and sexual violence against children increased alarmingly by 90 per cent and 70 per cent, respectively. Abduction is often combined with the recruitment and use of children and sexual violence, said the report.
Grave violations affect boys and girls differently. While 85 per cent of children recruited and used were boys, 98 per cent of sexual violence was perpetrated against girls.
Sexual violence remained vastly underreported, owing to stigmatisation, cultural norms, absence of services and safety concerns, according to the report.
The Covid-19 pandemic aggravated existing vulnerabilities of children, including by hampering their access to education, health and social services, limiting child protection activities and shrinking safe spaces.
The socio-economic impact of the pandemic exposed these children to grave violations, notably recruitment and use, abduction and sexual violence.
Attacks on schools and hospitals, and the military use thereof, exacerbated the plight of children, said the report.
The protection of children affected by armed conflict is crucial to preventing conflict and sustaining peace, the report said, urging national and regional stake-holders to develop and expand initiatives to prevent grave violations