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With 15 million children caught up in major conflicts, UNICEF declares 2014 a devastating year for children

2014-12-08

TORONTO, December 8, 2014—The year 2014 has been one of horror, fear and despair for millions of children, as worsening conflicts across the world saw them exposed to extreme violence and its consequences, forcibly recruited and deliberately targeted by warring groups, UNICEF said today. Yet many crises no longer capture the world’s attention, warned the children’s agency.

“For more than 15 million children, 2014 was a devastating year as they were subjected to unspeakable brutality. From Gaza to Syria, from the Central African Republic to South Sudan, children were kidnapped, tortured, raped, orphaned, recruited as child soldiers and sold as slaves,” said David Morley, UNICEF Canada President and CEO. “They were killed where they should have been safe—sleeping at home in bed and studying in classrooms. Children have repeatedly been innocent victims caught in the middle of conflicts that tear apart families, communities and countries.”

“It is sadly ironic that in this, the 25th anniversary year of the Convention on the Rights of the Child when we have been able to celebrate so much progress for children globally, the rights of so many millions of other children have been so brutally violated,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “Violence and trauma do more than harm individual children – they undermine the strength of societies. The world can and must do more to make 2015 a much better year for every child. For every child who grows up strong, safe, healthy and educated is a child who can go on to contribute to her own, her family’s, her community’s, her nation’s and, indeed, to our common future.”

Children caught in conflicts

As many as 15 million children are caught up in violent conflicts in the Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, the State of Palestine, Syria and Ukraine – including those internally displaced or living as refugees. Globally, an estimated 230 million children currently live in countries and areas affected by armed conflicts.

  • In the Central African Republic, 2.3 million children are affected by the conflict, up to 10,000 children are believed to have been recruited by armed groups over the last year, and more than 430 children have been killed and maimed – three times as many as in 2013
  • In Gaza, 54,000 children were left homeless as a result of the 50-day conflict during the summer that also saw 538 children killed, and more than 3,370 injured.
  • In Syria, with more than 7.3 million children affected by the conflict including 1.7 million child refugees, the United Nations verified at least 35 attacks on schools in the first nine months of the year, which killed 105 children and injured nearly 300 others.
  • In Iraq, where an estimated 2.7 million children are affected by conflict, at least 700 children are believed to have been maimed, killed or even executed this year. In both Iraq and Syria, children have been victims of, witnesses to and even perpetrators of increasingly brutal and extreme violence. 
  • In South Sudan, an estimated 235,000 children under five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Almost 750,000 children have been displaced and more than 320,000 are living as refugees.  According to UN verified data, more than 600 children have been killed and over 200 maimed this year, and around 12,000 children are now being used by armed forces and groups.

Forgotten crises

The sheer number of crises in 2014 meant that many were quickly forgotten or captured little attention. Protracted crises in countries like Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, continued to claim even more young lives and futures. 

This year has also posed significant new threats to children’s health and well-being, most notably the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, which has left thousands of children orphaned and an estimated 5 million out of school.

Where strides were made

Despite the tremendous challenges children have faced in 2014, there has been hope for millions of children affected by conflict and crisis. In the face of access restrictions, insecurity, and funding challenges, humanitarian organizations, including UNICEF, have worked together to provide life-saving assistance and other critical services like education and emotional support to help children growing up in some of the most dangerous places in the world. 

  • In Central African Republic, a campaign is under way to get 662,000 children back to school as the security situation permits.
  • Nearly 68 million doses of the oral polio vaccine were delivered to countries in the Middle East to stem a polio outbreak in Iraq and Syria.
  • In South Sudan, more than 70,000 children were treated for severe malnutrition.
  • In Ebola-hit countries, work continues to combat the virus in local communities through support for community care centres and Ebola treatment Units; through training of health workers and awareness-raising campaigns to reduce the risks of transmission; and through supporting children orphaned by Ebola. 

Multimedia assets can be downloaded from: http://uni.cf/1zreNEa.

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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 more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

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.