415 million children live in areas affected by military conflicts. In ten years, this number has increased by more than a third.
About every sixth child grows up in a conflict area. 415 million children worldwide lived in an area affected by military conflict in 2018, according to the report on war against children by the aid organisation Save the Children published on the occasion of the Munich Security Conference in Germany that starts today. This means that fewer girls and boys are affected than in 2017, when the number was 420 million. However, since 2010 it has increased by a total of 37 percent. Save the Children said 149 million children were living in "the most dangerous circumstances".
The survey also found that the number of serious violations of children's rights has increased. These include killing and maiming children, using child soldiers, kidnapping, sexual violence, attacking schools and hospitals, and denying access to humanitarian aid. With 12,125, around 13 percent more children were killed or injured in 2018 than in the previous year. For the first time, the organisation also examined how the most serious violations of children's rights affect girls and boys differently. Boys were killed far more often by direct warfare, while deaths and injuries to girls are mostly due to the use of explosive weapons.
Every fourth child in Africa lives in a crisis area
This is partly due to the fact that boys are more often recruited as child soldiers and are more frequently affected by kidnappings. According to the study authors, there were about 7,000 forced recruits in 2018. In the period from 2005 to 2018 there were 65,000. Of the 2,500 children abducted by armed groups in 2018, 80 percent were boys. According to the report, 44 percent of the boys were killed and 17 percent were girls, while the rest of the sexes were not recorded. Girls, on the other hand, are raped, forced to marry children or exposed to other forms of sexual abuse much more often: 87 percent of all cases of sexual violence that have been documented concern girls.
The number of reported attacks on schools and hospitals rose particularly sharply: in 2018 it was 1,892, a third more than in the previous year. The most dangerous countries for children, according to the report, were Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Yemen, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and the Central African Republic. In Africa alone, one in four children in 170 million lived in a crisis area.
Children's rights violations are not an issue at the security conference
Save the Children in particular criticises that children are "systematically refused" humanitarian aid. "Since 2005, 95,000 children have been maimed or killed, tens of thousands have been kidnapped. Children in conflict are sexually abused or forcefully recruited," said Save the Children CEO Ms Susanna Krüger. "It is shocking that the world is watching while children are being targeted with impunity. Schools and hospitals are being attacked more and more, and millions of children have no access to education or health services."
That should no longer be tolerated, emphasised Ms Krüger. "The senseless destruction of children's lives will continue unless all governments and warring parties act now to uphold international norms and standards and hold the perpetrators responsible for their crimes."
During the Munich Security Conference, which takes place from Friday to Sunday, government officials would have to work together to improve the situation of children worldwide. However, the topic does not appear in the Munich Security Report 2020, the official document for the conference, which is intended to serve as a basis for discussion.