Many children who live in conflict zones find themselves fearing for their lives, as reports of widespread violations have revealed suffering throughout 2018, the U.N. children agency (UNICEF) said in a recent report. While the future of millions of children are at risk due to human rights violations, including rape, forced weddings and kidnappings, UNICEF called on all parties to end violations against children and to respect international law. The agency also called on world leaders to use their influence to protect children in the conflict areas.
"Children living in conflict zones around the world have continued to suffer through extreme levels of violence over the past 12 months, and the world has continued to fail them," said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programs. "For too long, parties to conflict have been committing atrocities with near-total impunity, and it is only getting worse. Much more can and must be done to protect and assist children." "2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, yet today, more countries are embroiled in internal or international conflict than at any other time in the past three decades. Children living through conflict are among the least likely to be guaranteed their rights. Attacks on children must end," Fontaine added.
Palestinian children living in the occupied territories
Young Palestinian victims bear the brunt of Israeli violence, as over 50 children were killed and hundreds more injured this year during months-long border protests. In a statement released on the occasion of International Children's Day, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), which advocates for the rights of Palestinian children in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, said 48 of the deaths occurred in the blockaded Gaza Strip while the rest had occurred in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
According to the U.N., during the border protests, over 1,000 children have been injured by Israeli forces in the besieged Gaza Strip during demonstrations, according to UNICEF. The U.N. body pointed out that some injuries had been severe and potentially life-altering, including amputations. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) earlier called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch an investigation into the killings of Palestinian children by Israel, while urging the international community to "break their silence toward the incessant crimes committed by the occupation army."
Rohingya refugees in Myanmar and Bangladesh
In Myanmar, many Rohingya refugees have been facing ongoing human rights violations, which include allegations of killings, disappearances and arbitrary arrests. In a system of segregation building up to genocide in Myanmar, Rohingya children are often unable to attend mixed Rakhine-Rohingya schools but are instead kept in separate education facilities where the quality of education is off limits.
As a result of Myanmar's ongoing human rights abuses against Rohingya, more than 73 percent of them in Rakhine State self-identify as illiterate, according to a report released earlier this month by the Burmese Rohingya Organization U.K. (BROUK).
In Bangladesh, the situation seems to be indifferent for Rohingya refugees. As close to 1 million Rohingya refugees have been now largely housed in dozens of refugee camps in Bangladesh
after last year's huge exodus, many Rohingya children are not able to access education. Rohingya need to have an accreditation to get a formal education, the report said. If they are lucky enough, they are often taught in classrooms that are severely overcrowded and badly resourced.
Rohingya Muslims are the most persecuted minority in the world according to U.N. figures and continue to suffer from oppression under the Myanmar government, the army and Buddhist extremists.
Over the past decade, thousands of Rohingya have been killed since violence broke out in 2008, causing hundreds of thousands to flee their homeland for Bangladesh, Malaysia and other countries in the region. Although the numbers are contested, it is known that thousands of people have been killed in the last few years, while more than a million had to flee. The Myanmar army has set Rohingya villages on fire, bulldozing many of them and even uprooting trees and farms to make the area uninhabitable.
Yemeni children stuck in war zone
While Yemen has been wracked by conflict since 2014, civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict, which has killed over 10,000 people and sparked the world's worst humanitarian crisis. According to reports, as many as 85,000 infants under the age of 5 may have died from starvation or disease and 400,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition.
Schools and hospitals in the war-torn country have come under frequent attack, threatening the lives of many children. In September, the Saudi-led coalition admitted that mistakes were made in an August airstrike that killed 40 children, an event considered an apparent war crime by the U.N. human rights body. Saudi Arabia's alleged human rights violations are not limited to that country but have expanded beyond its borders, since there is an endless war in Yemen.
Children in eastern Ukraine
The sharp increase in fighting between pro-Russian separatist rebels and the Ukrainian army to take control of eastern Ukraine since 2014 has caused a significant number of people to find shelter from Ukraine's war.
"The situation is particularly severe for 400,000 children who live within 20 kilometers of the "contact line," which divides the government and non-government-controlled areas and where shelling and extreme levels of mine-contamination pose a lethal threat," UNICEF said.
Around 700,000 children were forced to learn in fragile environments, revealing a devastating toll on the education system.
Children in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The continuing inter-ethnic violence and clashes between security forces and armed groups/militia have had a devastating impact on children in the Central African Republic. According to UNICEF, two in three children need humanitarian aid due to ethnic clashes. In addition, children in the violence-hit country are among the first victims of the Ebola outbreak, UNICEF reported earlier in September. Malnutrition is another fact for children in the country as an estimated 4.2 million of them are at risk, according to the U.N.