Children in current conflicts
At the end of the past century, issues of children and armed conflicts came to the forefront of the agenda in the international community, recognizing that children’s rights, their well-being and protection, merit special attention.
In 1998, the United Nations Security Council held its first debate on children and armed conflicts. On this occasion, the Council supported the mandate of the Special Representative to Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict.
One year later, the Security Council adopted its first resolution (Resolution 1261) on children and armed conflict, recognizing it as an issue that affects peace and security globally. Besides adopting the Resolution 1261, in 1999, the Council also requested the Secretary General to submit a first annual report on children and armed conflicts. It identified and condemned six categories of the so called grave violations committed against children in times of conflict:
- Killing and maiming of children;
- Recruitment or use of children as soldiers;
- Sexual violence against children;
- Attacks against schools or hospitals;
- Denial of humanitarian access for children;
- Abduction of children.
Furthermore, in 2005, by its Resolution 1612, the Security Council established Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) to systematically monitor, document and report on these violations.
Annual reports of the Secretary-General to the Security Council, on the situation of children affected by armed conflict, provide information on which the Council bases its action on this matter. They include the list of parties committing the grave violations against children.
The most recent report (June 2015) addresses the situation of children and armed conflicts across the world in 2014. According to the report, in the past year, violence rose to unprecedented levels, and it affected the lives of millions of children worldwide.
Information on grave violations committed against children during armed conflicts in 2014 (based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council, issued on 5 June 2015):
In 2014, security situation for Afghan children has worsened. Number of child casualties increased by 48 per cent in comparison to the previous year. At least 710 children were killed and 1,792 injured in 1,091 separate incidents. 68 children (65 boys, 3 girls) were recruited and used as combatants by Afghan National Police, Afghan local police as well as by the Taliban and other armed groups. 8 boys and 6 girls were victims of sexual violence. In 17 separate incidents 24 boys and 2 girls were abducted. There were 163 incidents of attack on schools, and 11 cases of military use of schools. At least 469 Afghan schools remain closed because of insecurity, mostly caused by the Taliban’s threats to female students and teachers for not complying with their demand to ban school for girls.
Central African Republic
Fighting between armed groups, including anti-Balaka and ex-Séléka in CAR has a great impact on lives of children living on its territory. 464 children were reportedly recruited; however, it is very likely that the real number is much higher since UN has limited access and capacity to document these incidents in some areas. 2014 was characterized by sharp increase in the number of documented cases of killing and maiming of children as young as three months old. 146 children were killed and 289 injured. 406 children, between the ages of 7 and 17 (405 girls and 1 boy) were victims of rape. There were 9 attacks on schools and 5 case of military use of schools. 34 children (22 boys, 12 girls) were abducted.
In the past year, the ongoing conflict in Columbia, between the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional and the Colombian Armed Forces continued and even intensified in some parts of the country. As a result there were around 6 million of internally displaced persons, approximately 35 per cent of whom were children. In addition, there were 343 cases of recruitment and use of children by armed groups in 22 departments and in Bogotá. 9 children were killed and 60 were maimed, mostly in landmine incidents. Furthermore, children, especially girls were victims of sexual violence. The abuses were committed by members of both, national armed forces and other armed groups. Moreover, sexual exploitation and sale of girls in mining zones of the country continues. There were 12 reported cases of damaged schools and 11 cases of military use by parties to the conflict.
Protection of children in Côte d’Ivoire continues to improve. 2014 was marked by some sporadic incidents of armed attacks, banditry and other violent crimes. In addition, there were 18 reported cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence committed by Forces républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire against girls aged 2 to 17, mostly in the western part of the country.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
In 2014, situation in DRC remained volatile and witnessed major political and security developments. UN reported on 241 new cases of recruitment of children (223 boys, 18 girls). A total of 80 children (52 boys, 28 girls) were killed and 92 maimed (48 boys, 44 girls), mostly during violent attacks by armed groups targeting civilians. There were 334 cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence (332 girls, 2 boys), representing significant increase compared with 2013. 22 schools were attacked and 12 were used for military purposes, affecting over 31,000 children. 108 children (65 boys, 43 girls) were abducted by different armed groups. Denial of humanitarian access was documented in 7 incidents.
UN described 2014 as the deadliest year in Iraq since 2007 with 880 incidents of grave violations against children, committed by ISIL and other associated armed groups. On 9 different occasions, ISIL recruited at least 67 boys, whereas unknown number of children was recruited by the pro-Government Popular Mobilization Forces in all parts of the country affected by the conflict. 679 children were killed (121 girls, 304 boys, 254 of unknown gender) and 505 others were wounded (111 girls, 282 boys, 112 of unknown gender) in 498 different incidents. There were 67 attacks on schools and 51 attacks on hospitals, resulting in the killing of 56 children and injury of 42. Despite significant underreporting, number of abducted children reaches as high as 1,297 (685 girls, 612 boys). Children were taken in groups with their families and detained in schools, prisons and airports. Girls above the age of 12 were separated from their families and either sold in ISIL-controlled areas in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, or retained, including for sexual slavery, whereas boys were allegedly forced to convert to Islam and join ISIL.
Israel and State of Palestine
Overall security situation in 2014, in the State of Palestine, particularly in Gaza, but also throughout the West Bank, deteriorated significantly, resulting in dramatic increase of child causalities. At least 557 children were killed and 4249 injured. It has been estimated that up to 1,000 out of 4249 of injured Palestinian children will be permanently disabled. There are 9 reported instances of child recruitment and use by Palestinian armed groups, including by the Al-Qassam Brigades. Approximately 188 Palestinian children per month ended up in Israeli military custody. Affidavits obtained from 122 of these children speak of ill-treatment, such as beatings, being hit with sticks, being blindfolded, being kicked and being subjected to verbal abuse and threats of sexual violence. 262 schools and 274 kindergartens were reportedly damaged in Gaza. Children in Israel are also affected by the conflict. In 2014, 4 Israeli children were killed, and 22 injured. 3 schools were hit by rockets fired from Gaza by Palestinian armed groups.
Security situation in certain parts of Lebanon remains volatile, due to sporadic violent incidents, explosions of improvised devices, urban clashes and cross-border shelling from the Syrian Arab Republic. This inevitably affects lives of children living on its territory. In 2014, at least 17 boys and 3 girls were killed and four boys were injured. 97 schools were used as shelters, depriving at least 20,000 students of education. Children as young as 14 were joining armed groups in Palestinian camps as well as armed groups operating in the Syrian Arab Republic, particularly in border areas.
In 2014, internal armed conflicts erupted in various parts of Libya. Indiscriminate shelling by all parties to the conflict resulted in death of at least 30 children, but the actual number is likely to be underreported. Due to shelling of hospitals on many children were denied access to health care. Many hospitals and schools were used for military purposes. Children were reportedly abducted by armed groups in the western part of the country.
Monitoring of violations against children in Mali remains a challenge owing to deteriorated security situations in the northern part of the country. Therefore, violations are estimated to be underreported. Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), Haut Conseil pour l’unité de l’Azawad (HCUA), Mouvement arabe de l’Azawad (MAA)-Sidati, MAA-Ould Sidi Mohamed and Groupe d’autodéfense Touaregs Imghad et alliés (GATIA) reportedly recruited 84 children. Furthermore, it has been verified that 9 children were killed and 23 were injured. There were 38 incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence against girls. In addition, number of girls aged 12 to 16 were abducted by unidentified individuals.
Ongoing conflict in Myanmar between government armed forces (Tatmadaw) and ethnic armed groups affects lives of children living across the country. There were 357 reported cases of child recruitment and use by the Tatmadaw in 2014. Moreover, 13 out of 53 which escaped from Tatmadaw were arrested and detained as “deserters”. Children were also recruited by other armed groups, including through abductions. 3 children were injured and 1 was reportedly killed. There was 1 verified case of rape of a 14-year-old girl.
In 2014, United Nations reported on 1,870 violations against children in Somalia. Al-Shabaab, national army and allied militia, Ahl Al-Sunna wal-Jama’a, and other armed groups recruited 819 children. A total of 563 children were reportedly detained by different parties to the conflict. In 340 different incidents of killing and maiming, 520 children were affected. Reporting on rape and other forms of sexual violence against children remains a challenge, partly due to victims’ fear of stigmatization. However, 70 reported incidents contain 152 girls’ rape cases. Particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and forced marriage are the girls living in camps for internally displaced people. 17 schools were subjected to attacks, and Al-Shabaab continued to use schools for recruitment and disrupted learning for hundreds of children including by distributing jihadist booklets for teachers and conducting indoctrination lectures. A total of 133 children were abducted.
Heavy fighting in South Sudan in 2014 had devastating impact on lives of its children. There were 617 reported cases of recruitment and use of children (612 boys, 5 girls) by Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition, the South Sudan National Police Service, the South Sudan Wildlife Service, the South Sudan Liberation Army, the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army-Cobra Faction (SSDM/A-CF), the White Army and armed groups allied to Gabriel Tanginye. 90 children were killed and 220 wounded, however these statistics might not fully correspond to reality on the ground, since reporting remains challenging due to security and safety situation. Number of boys aged 14 to 17 have been detained by security forces and subject to inhumane and degrading treatment, such as beatings and being urinated upon. There were 36 cases (4 boys and 32 girls) of rape or other forms of sexual violence against children. 7 schools were under direct attack, and 60 used for military purposes affecting education of about 11 000 children. 147 children were reportedly abducted signaling increase in abduction incidents.
Negotiation talks between Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North are indefinitely suspended, and conflict continued in South Kordofan and Blue Nile areas. Tribal fighting reportedly occurred in West Kordofan area, in which in just one incident at least 40 children were reportedly killed or injured. Children, and in particular those living in refugee settlements in Unity State are recruited and used by different parties to the conflict. UN verified recruitment of 60 boys, aged 14 to 17; however, there are many unverified or unreported cases of child recruitment in Sudan. 104 children, ages 5-17 were killed or maimed. Due to damaged schools and hospitals, over 75 000 children have no access to education and medical care.
Heavy fighting in this region of Sudan resulted in numerous violations against children. There were 3 reported cases of recruitment and use of boys by armed forces and different militias. Total of 197 children were killed and maimed in 2014. 60 girls were victims of rape or other forms of sexual violence. 10 schools were severely damaged, destroyed or looted, and 1 used for military purposes. There were 13 cases of child abduction.
Syrian Arab Republic
There were 2,107 verified grave violations against children in Syria, committed by all parties to the conflict during 2014. Recruitment and use of children became common resulting in recruitment and use of 271 boys and 7 girls by groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ), Islamic State of Iraq and Sham ISIL and al-Nusra Front. There were 38 verified cases of detention (31 boys, 7 girls), including 15 cases of children being subjected to torture. Children were also victims of abductions. UN verified 463 cases of child abductions by ISIL. 736 children were killed and 1542 maimed, however, it is very likely that actual numbers are much higher. UN has also reported on 18 cases of sexual violence against children, and on practice of forced marriage of girls to foreign fighters. 60 schools or educational facilities were under attack, and 9 of them used for military purposes. 413 medical facilities were partially or fully damaged, while 823 of them were not functioning properly.
Escalation of conflict in Yemen, particularly in northern parts of the country, between the Yemeni Armed Forces and Islah-backed pro-Government tribal militias and armed groups, against Ansar Allah and Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula resulted in significant increase of number of child causalities. 74 children (56 boys, 18 girls) were killed and 244 (176 boys, 68 girls) maimed. Recruitment and use of children followed the same trend with a total of 156 boys (ages 9-17) being recruited and used for combat. 15 children were reportedly detained. There were 35 verified attacks against schools, and 13 against hospitals. 92 schools were used for military purposes.
Throughout 2014, recruitment and use of children by Naxalites continued in several Indian states, affecting mostly children from poor communities. Children, aged 6-12 get recruited into specific children’s units where they receive basic training to fight with crude weapons such as sticks. After the age of 12 children are transferred to units where they are taught how to handle weapons and improvised explosive devices. In these camps, recruited children, especially girls are subject to sexual violence. At least 18 children were killed in north-east part of the country.
Boko Haram has intensified its attacks on civilian population in Nigeria and neighboring countries, causing the displacement of over 1 million persons in Nigeria only, majority of which are woman and children. The attacks have also resulted in sharp increase of number of civilian causalities in comparison to previous years; however there is no available data on the exact number of children being killed and maimed during the past year. Boko Haram reportedly recruits and uses children in combat, but also as human shields and suicide bombers. Numerous schools were under attack for allegedly providing “Western” curriculum. Teachers and students are reportedly, killed, threatened and abducted. In largest single incident, Boko Haram abducted 276 girls from their school in Borno state.
Security situation in Pakistan remained highly volatile throughout 2014 inevitably affecting lives of children living on its territory. Numerous indiscriminate attacks resulted in death and injury of children in different parts of the country. In addition, different extremist groups target schools on a regular basis. At least 40 secular schools were under attack in different parts of Pakistan. The most alarming incident took place in Army Public School in Peshawar, where Taliban killed 132 boys and injured many others.
In 2014, New People’s Army (NPA) and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) recruited and used 7 boys as young as 9 years of age. Due to challenging security situation, child recruitment and other violations committed against children in Philippines are mostly likely underreported. In 22 incidents, 13 children were killed and 26 injured. 5 schools were damaged, and 6 of them used for military purposes.
Conflict between Government and different armed groups continued in southern part of the country. Notwithstanding 2014 peace talks, recruitment and use of children by armed groups continues. During the past year, 23 children were killed and 65 were maimed. Schools and teachers were also direct targets of attacks.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine affected lives of thousands of children. According to UNICEF, at least 68 children have been killed and 180 injured. Due to limited access to conflict areas, it is very likely that actual number of child causalities is considerably higher. The conflict has created humanitarian crisis affecting millions of people, including children.
 Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, available at: https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/mandate/timeline/
 Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council, A/69/926*–S/2015/409, June 2015, available at: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2015/409
 Children under threat from renewed violence in eastern Ukraine, available at: http://reliefweb.int/report/ukraine/children-under-threat-renewed-violence-eastern-ukraine