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In 2015, an unprecedented one in eight babies was born into conflict, UNICEF reports


Conflicts across the globe continue to put babies and children in grave danger

TORONTO, December 17, 2015 – More than 16 million babies were born in conflict zones in 2015 – one in eight of all births worldwide this year – UNICEF said today, a figure that underscores the vulnerability faced by an increasing number of children.

“Every two seconds, a newborn takes its first breath in the midst of conflict, often in terrifying circumstances and without access to medical care,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Too many children are now starting their lives in extreme circumstances – from conflict to natural disasters, poverty, disease or malnutrition. Can there be a worse start in life?”

“In conflict-affected countries such as Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, or on perilous journeys to escape fighting, newborn children and their mothers face enormous risks,” said David Morley, UNICEF Canada President and CEO. “Canada has been a global champion for maternal, newborn and child health and for the education and protection of children in emergencies. Investments in 2016 will be critical to efforts to save the lives of the most vulnerable caught in these devastating conflicts.”

Pregnant mothers are in danger of giving birth without medical help and in unsanitary conditions. Their children are more likely to die before they reach their fifth birthdays and to experience extreme – or “toxic” – stress, which can inhibit their long-term emotional and cognitive development. 

In addition to those born into conflict, more than a quarter of a billion children – or one in nine – live in countries and areas in conflict and face enormous obstacles to their health, education and well-being.

  • More than 200,000 children applied for asylum in European Union countries in the first nine months of 2015, adding to the 30 million children across the globe forced from their homes by 2014 due to war, violence and persecution. More people are displaced now than at any time since World War II.
  • In South Sudan, up to 16,000 children are being used by armed groups and armed forces and 1,500 children have been killed in nearly two years of conflict.
  • The escalation of the conflict in Yemen has placed 9.9 million children in need of humanitarian assistance. Two million children cannot go to school and the threat of preventable diseases like diarrhea, measles and Polio are acute. Also, the number of children at risk for the deadliest form of malnutrition has tripled to more than half a million.
  • In the Central African Republic, more than one million children are in urgent need of assistance after three years of fighting. Around one third of the population has no access to safe drinking water and 41 per cent of children under five are chronically malnourished. But there is hope and UNICEF is making a difference. So far in 2015, more than 300 children, including several under 12 years old, have been released from armed groups in the country following a UNICEF-facilitated agreement by the groups’ leaders to free all children in their ranks - the start of a process that we hope will result in the release of thousands of children associated with armed groups.
  • The violence in north-eastern Nigeria, caused by insurgent groups, has led to a humanitarian crisis stretching from Nigeria to Cameroon, Chad and Niger. A sharp increase in attacks by the armed group commonly known as Boko Haram has uprooted over 500,000 children over the past months, bringing the total number of children on the run in northeast Nigeria and neighbouring countries to 1.4 million. Scores of girls and boys have been recruited by armed groups or subjected to violence, exploitation and abuse, and countless have been killed.

UNICEF’s new video Born Into Danger is available here:

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