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170m children are endangered in conflict zones across Africa—Save the Children

AFRICA has highest number of children in conflict globally as a total of 170 million children live in conflict zones across Africa, Save the Children has revealed in a new report.

This figure according to Save the Children in the report released on Thursday is equivalent to one in every four African children – the highest absolute number of any region in the world.

“Wars and conflicts are intensifying for children, Save the Children revealed in a new report1 released today,” said Vishna Shah, Regional Head of Advocacy, Campaign for West and Central Africa at Save the Children.

“Whilst fewer children are living in conflict affected areas, those who do, run the highest risk of falling victim to serious violence since records began.”

In the report titled, “‘Stop the War on Children 2020: Gender Matters’, Save the Children disclosed that over 10,200 schools are closed across Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, the DRC and Chad, depriving over two million children of an education.

It said available data also revealed that, in conflict situations, girls were far more likely to be raped or fall victim to other forms of sexual abuse than boys – 87 percent of all verified cases involved girls, while 15 percent of the sexual violence boys were targeted.

In 11 percent of the cases the sex of the victim was not recorded, it said.

The report indicated that successive generations of children across the continent have grown up knowing nothing other than conflict, including in the three West and Central Africa countries that are included in the list of the top ten worst conflict-affected countries to be a child – DRC, Mali, and Nigeria.

“The increasingly protracted nature of conflicts has changed the risks that children face, and the effects of this are wide-ranging,” it said.

“Particularly in Sahel countries, schools are targeted. This is serious enough when we know that children living in a context of humanitarian crisis consider education as a priority.”

“Children have nothing to do with the causes of armed conflicts, yet we are the ones most affected by it – exposed to hunger and disease, displaced, tortured, killed, sexually abused, deprived of education, trafficked, separated from parents, recruited as child soldiers. When will children’s suffering end? Leaders should understand that if we are not heard today, we cannot speak tomorrow.”

“In times of crisis, we have seen that children are more vulnerable to marriage as families turn to coping mechanism to survive. These young girls who are forced into marriage are instantly robbed of their childhood, many have to drop out of the education system and are locked into a lifestyle where they have limited decision making power and mobility,” Shah said.

“Data also shows that 90% of births to adolescent girls occur within a child marriage and in conflict situations, girls often have limited to opportunities to avoid unwanted pregnancies, and also have inadequate access to essential services such as antenatal care and assisted childbirth.

“More needs to be done to urgently protect girls from early marriage- this means increased investment in programmes and increased data to better understand the reality of the situation.”

“It is time for world leaders to fully play their role as protectors of children and future generations by putting in place policies and practices for the best interest of children first,” she concluded.

Save the Children said it believed that high numbers of children are exposed to conflict and grave violations because of three core drivers which are disregard of international rules, laws and norms by parties to conflicts, failure to hold perpetrators of violations to account and insufficient practical action to support children and to enable their recovery.

It added that progress against these three drivers is possible, and is already taking place.

“As of 2019, 101 states had endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, committing to keeping schools safe during conflict which is a great asset to protect children in time of war, 14 of which are in West and Central Africa, including DRC, Mali, Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso.

At the same time, more needs to be done to support children in recovering from conflict. For that, the proportion of humanitarian funding that is aimed at the protection of children must increase from 0.5 to 4 percent.

In DRC, for now just $3 is available per child in humanitarian child protection funding. The funding will be both for mainstream and targeted programs on gender equality, the empowerment of girls and sexual violence in humanitarian settings as well as education in emergencies

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