Grave violations of children’s rights in conflict on the rise around the world, warns UNICEF [EN/AR]

NEW YORK, 31 December 2021 – This year has brought a spate of grave violations against children in both protracted and new conflicts, UNICEF warned today. From Afghanistan to Yemen, and Syria to northern Ethiopia, thousands of children paid a devastating price as armed conflict, inter-communal violence, and insecurity continued. Just last week, at least four children were reportedly among the victims as at least 35 people were killed – including two Save the Children staff members – in Kayah State in Eastern Myanmar. This was just the latest high-profile example of the devastating toll conflict takes on children and the ongoing threats to humanitarian workers.

“Year after year, parties to conflict continue to demonstrate a dreadful disregard for the rights and wellbeing of children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Children are suffering, and children are dying because of this callousness. Every effort should be made to keep these children safe from harm.”

Whilst data for 2021 is not yet available, in 2020, 26,425 grave violations against children were verified by the UN. The first three months of 2021 saw a slight decrease in the overall number of verified grave violations, however, verified cases of abduction and sexual violence continued to rise at alarming rates – by more than 50 and 10 per cent, respectively – compared with the first quarter of the previous year.

Verified abductions were highest in Somalia, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the countries of the Lake Chad Basin (Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger.) Verified instances of sexual violence were highest in the DRC, Somalia and the Central African Republic.

This year marked 25 years since the publication of the seminal Graça Machel report ‘The impact of war on children’, which urged the international community to take concrete action to protect children from the scourge of war and called on the United Nations and the global community to act to protect children.

The United Nations has verified 266,000 cases of grave violations against children in more than 30 conflict situations across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America over the past 16 years. These are only the cases verified through the UN-led Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, established in 2005 to systematically document the most egregious violations against children in conflict zones. The true figures will be far higher.

Afghanistan, for example, has the highest number of verified child casualties since 2005, at more than 28,500 – accounting for 27 per cent of all verified child casualties globally. Meanwhile, the Middle East and North Africa region has the highest number of verified attacks on schools and hospitals since 2005, with 22 such attacks verified in the first six months of this year.

In October, UNICEF highlighted that 10,000 children had been killed or maimed in Yemen since fighting escalated in March 2015, the equivalent of four children every day.

Away from the headlines, the UN has verified violations in countries like Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Libya, Mozambique, and the Philippines.

Despite decades of advocacy with parties to conflict and those who influence them, as well as enhanced monitoring, reporting and response mechanisms for grave rights violations, children continue to bear the brunt of war. Each day, girls and boys living in areas under conflict endure unspeakable horrors that no human should ever experience.

The use of explosive weapons, particularly in populated areas, is a persistent and growing threat to children and their families. In 2020, explosive weapons and explosive remnants of war were responsible for nearly 50 per cent of all child casualties, resulting in more than 3,900 children killed and maimed. Explosive weapons can have lethal and long-lasting effects on children, including the disruption of services essential for their survival.

In many instances, children fall victim to multiple grave rights violations. In 2020, for example, 37 per cent of abductions verified by the UN led to the recruitment and use of children in war, with such instances surpassing 50 per cent in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.

UNICEF is calling for all parties to conflict – including the 61 listed in the annexes of the 2021 Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict – to commit to formal action plans and take concrete measures to protect children. These include preventing grave violations from occurring in the first place, releasing children from armed forces and groups, protecting children from sexual violence, and stopping attacks on hospitals and schools.

Just 37 such plans have been signed by parties to conflict since 2005 – a shockingly low number given the stakes for children.

“Ultimately, children living through war will only be safe when parties to conflict take concrete action to protect them and stop committing grave violations,” said Fore. “As we approach the end of 2021, I call on all parties to conflict to end attacks against children, uphold their rights and strive for peaceful political resolutions to war.”

Source: UN Children’s Fund

UNHCR Regional Update – Southern Africa Operational Update (1 – 30 November 2021)


16 Days of Activism: Campaign against gender-based violence (GBV) was launched and will continue into December.

Durable solutions: Voluntary repatriation was facilitated across the region, while resettlement travel and case processing continued.

COVID-19: Initiatives to address vaccine hesitancy were scaled up, as emergence of Omicron variant triggered rise in infection rates.

Operational context: Key developments

Escalating violence and insecurity in parts of DRC and Mozambique: In the DRC, clashes between armed groups along with attacks against civilians including killings, abductions, and burning of houses has led to new displacement in recent weeks. This includes more than 800 reported displaced households following violence in the Fizi Highlands and in Shabunda territory, South Kivu Province, where UNHCR has provided core relief items.

Attacks by armed groups against civilians including IDPs in Djugu territory, Ituri Province, and in Beni and Lubero territories, North Kivu Province, have also resulted in displacement and humanitarian needs. At the same time, access has been increasingly difficult due to the security situation. Meanwhile, in Mozambique, Niassa Province has reportedly seen an escalation in violence and insecurity, including kidnappings, burning of homes, and robberies. At the same time, non-state armed groups remain active in Cabo Delgado Province, with reports of attacks on villages in late November in Macomia district, which resulted in deaths and abductions.

Durable solutions: In support of durable solutions for refugees and asylum-seekers, UNHCR continued to facilitate voluntary repatriation across the region, while continuing to pursue resettlement opportunities. By the end of November, resettlement submissions by the South Africa Multi-Country Office (SAMCO) stood at 867 individuals submitted to seven resettlement countries, with 80 individuals departed in 2021 primarily to Europe, Canada, and Australia. In addition, 656 individuals have been supported to repatriate since beginning of the year, mainly from South Africa and Botswana. In Zambia, following a Return Intention Survey conducted among Congolese refugees in Mantapala refugee settlement, preparations for voluntary repatriation have started for an initial 300 refugees.

Meanwhile, 681 refugees have departed Zambia between January and November on resettlement to Europe,

United States and Canada, including LGBTQI individuals who lived for a year at a safe house in Lusaka. In the DRC, between January and November, UNHCR and partners facilitated voluntary returns for a total of 13,141 individuals, including 4,255 Central African refugees from North and South Ubangi provinces, as well as 1,590 Rwandan and 7,296 Burundian refugees from North and South Kivu.

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Covid-19: Uganda confirms 1,800 new cases

KAMPALA— Uganda’s Ministry of Health says 1,809 more people have tested positive for Covid-19 with four more virus deaths as infections on Thursday surged to 139,079 cases since March last year when the outbreak was confirmed in Uganda.

The new cases and deaths are out of the 8,313 tests conducted on Dec 28, according to government.

Cumulative recoveries are said to be 98,379 with 3,291 virus deaths since March last year.

Data from the ministry indicate that 2,136,079 tests have so far been conducted in Uganda whose population is estimated at about 45 million people.

Uganda has, since March this year, received 32 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines and so far administered 11.37 million jabs across the country.

The ministry’s statement comes hours before President Museveni’s Dec 31 scheduled addresses to Ugandans on the Covid-19 situation and reopening of the economy which has been under the virus-induced lockdown for the last two years, as well as deliver his New Year message.


Sudan: UN chief condemns looting, attacks on UN facilities, equipment in Darfur

UNITED NATIONS— United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned looting and attacks on UN facilities and equipment in Darfur, which were gifted to the government of Sudan for civilian use.

Unknown armed groups attacked a World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur State, on Tuesday evening.

A total of 1,900 metric tons of food commodities, enough to feed 730,000 vulnerable people for a month, were stolen.

Earlier this week, looting and violence were reported at the former UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) base in El Fasher.

The UN chief urged Sudan to restore order in his statement.

The authorities must ensure that former UNAMID properties and assets are used only for civilian purposes, according to the framework agreement the government signed in March.

Furthermore, the UN head asked the Sudanese authorities to facilitate a safe working environment and passage for remaining UN operations in the region.

As a final note, he thanked the UN civilian and uniformed personnel who remain on the ground under “challenging” conditions.

Khardiata Lo N’Diaye, the humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, condemned the looting as well.

“This was food assistance meant for Sudan’s most vulnerable people. Humanitarian assistance should never be a target,” she underscored.

Sudan currently has one in three people in need of humanitarian assistance – an estimated 14.3 million people. Twenty-five percent of those people require food security and livelihood support, according to the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan.

A situation like this, the coordinator explained, severely hinders the ability to provide aid to those in need.

“We urgently ask all parties to adhere to humanitarian principles and allow the safe delivery of life-saving assistance,” N’Diaye stated.

According to estimates, the WFP faces “unprecedented” funding shortfalls of 358 million U.S. dollars.

Earlier in the month, thousands of people took to the streets to mark the third anniversary of the uprising that led to the April 2019 overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir.

State authorities reported that the security situation has been restored as of Dec 29.

N’diaye thanked the local authorities for preventing the situation from worsening, but urged the government to step up efforts to protect and safeguard humanitarian properties and assets.


AU chairperson calls for utmost restraint in Somalia

ADDIS ABABA— The Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, on Thursday expressed concern over the ongoing political tension in Somalia.

The chairperson of the pan-African bloc “is following with deep concern the serious current political tension in Somalia,” an AU statement read.

Mahamat called for utmost restraint as he emphasized for continued engagements and dialogue between the country’s president and prime minister in order to find a political solution to this present situation.

“The African Union recommits to scale up it’s support towards durable peace and stable polity in Somalia,” the chairperson said.

Amid the growing political tensions in the Horn of Africa country, the Somali President Mohamed Farmajo had on Monday suspended Prime Minister Mohamed Roble over corruption allegations.

Farmajo accused Roble of being involved in corruption and misuse of public lands in a statement, which came a day after he accused Roble of failing to steer the electoral process to a successful conclusion.

Analysts say the current political rift between the two top leaders will again delay the electoral process slated to conclude by early 2022. Parliamentary elections which began on Nov 1 have already been suspended after only 24 out of 275 lawmakers have been elected.

The country’s electoral body had set Dec 24 as the deadline for the completion of the parliamentary elections.