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Conflict creating unprecedented threats to children’s lives

2013-06-12

Attacks and threats against schools must stop, says UNICEF

NEW YORK, 12 June 2013 – 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.

These grave violations are highlighted in the latest annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, issued today by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui.

Such violations must stop, said UNICEF today.

The continuing trend of schools being attacked and used for military purposes is particularly abhorrent.  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 report highlights 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 put children’s lives at risk, hampers their right to an education and results in reduced enrolment and high drop-out rates, especially among girls.

A few examples from different regions noted in the report include:

  • In Syria, thousands of children have suffered through the shelling, missile firing and heavy aerial and artillery bombardment of their schools, hospitals and homes. The use of car and other bombs near schools, resulting in the death and injury to children was reported. One hundred sixty-seven education personnel, including 69 teachers, were reported killed up to the end of February 2013 and 2,445 schools are reported damaged. In some areas, children have not been to school in over 18 months.
  • In 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. Ten cases of the use of schools for military purposes in Afghanistan are noted in the report.
  • In 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 per cent of students remaining in the north still do not have access to education.

The Government of Canada continues to play a lead role in advocating for and funding increased protections for children in conflict situations. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has recently contributed $10 million to UNICEF to ensure the ongoing monitoring and reporting of these grave violations, including sexual violence against women and girls, as well as the required action to prevent and respond to these risks in over 20 conflict situations.

UNICEF uses the opportunity of the publication of the Secretary-General’s Report to reiterate that all parties to armed conflict must do everything to ensure the safety of children and the protection of their rights.

The full report is available here: http://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/

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About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries – more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.