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article imageUNICEF declares 2014 a 'devastating year' for children

By Matthew DeLuca     Dec 8, 2014 in World
According to a UNICEF statement released on December 8, an estimated 230 million children live in countries and areas affected by armed conflicts.
Over 15 million children have been affected by the armed conflicts in the Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, the State of Palestine, Syria and Ukraine. These conflicts have created a domestic and international refugee crisis with many forced to flee the areas of intense conflict.
According to UNICEF, In Syria, where more than 7.3 million children have been affected by the civil conflict occurring there, it is estimated that over 1.7 million children have been displaced. Through september of 2014, the United Nations confirmed 35 attacks on Syrian schools, which killed 105 children and injured nearly 300.
Still many of these children are unable to escape the brutal reality that they must face everyday. According to Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, “Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds; they have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves. Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable brutality.”
Children in areas of conflict continue to be subjected to these horrors, as warring factions target schools and healthcare facilities. Most notably, the abduction of 276 female, Nigerian students by the terrorist group Boko Haram earlier this year is one such example of how militant groups often target children.
Boko Haram’s violence toward children is not limited to the kidnapping of the girls in Chibok. There have been numerous attacks on schools, including a November 10 suicide bombing that targeted a boys' school in Potiskum, in the Yobe state of Nigeria, killing 58. Boko Haram, which means “western education is sinful,” has often targeted children in this manner in its attempts to create a hardline Islamic state in northern Nigeria.
In many places children are actively targeted for recruitment by armed groups. In the Central African Republic, in addition to the 2.3 million children generally affected by the civil conflict, it is estimated that up to 10,000 children were recruited by militant forces in 2014. More than 430 of these children were killed or maimed in 2014, three times more than were killed or maimed in 2013.
This displays a troubling trend that is all too real-- the face of the conflict is increasingly becoming the fresh-face of a young child. According to UN verified data, in South Sudan alone, approximately 12,000 children have been recruited by the various armed factions.
In addition to armed conflict, things like disease, drought and famine take a disproportionate toll on children. On their own theses issues can be extremely devastating, but when combined with protracted civil conflict, disease, drought and famine are even more catastrophic.
According to UNICEF, in South Sudan, an estimated 235,000 children under the age of five suffer from severe acute malnutrition. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, has left thousands of children orphaned and an estimated 5 million out of school. When coupled with the conflicts already occurring in these countries, the result has been “a devastating year for millions of children.”
UNICEF has attempted to address these many emerging crises. In Syria and Iraq, UNICEF is working to ensure access to safe drinking water and is distributing medical supplies to those affected by the conflict. In Sudan and the Central African Republic, UNICEF has been fighting to treat the rampant malnutrition among disadvantaged children, while working diligently to find safe spaces for them to attend school.
As Anthony Lake laments, “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… 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.” If children are the future--we must do more to protect that future.
More about Unicef, Children, Sudan, south sudan, Africa
 
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