A man helping a boy put his mask on.

Violent start to New Year for some of the world’s most vulnerable children

War Child UK, the specialist charity for children affected by conflict, has warned that while the world is focused on the pandemic and the race to roll out a vaccine, some of the world’s worst and most violent conflicts are slipping out of control.  

The charity reports that in Central African Republic (CAR) the contested election has seen rebel group advancements across the country, taking control of towns and displacing tens of thousands of people, to put pressure on the incumbent President. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the territory of Masisi - where War Child operates programmes to reintegrate former child soldiers in the southern part of North Kivu, has been plagued with armed violence and banditry. (1) In the past months, these armed clashes have intensified, further aggravating the dire humanitarian situation. This has led to significant numbers of displaced people and worrying signs of malnutrition, sexual violence and gunshot wounds among them, with children being some of the worst affected.    

In Yemen on December 30th, a rocket attack on Aden airport in the south of the country killed at least 25 people including aid workers and government officials and injuring hundreds of others. While in Afghanistan, as peace talks continue so do targeted killings. With violence - largely in the capital of Kabul - markedly ramped up, there have been up to 100 fatalities in the last few months, including civil servants, local journalists and human rights workers. (2)   

In this midst of all of this, the Covid pandemic has continued to ravage already vulnerable communities, increasing the dire risks that children face in conflict. A recent UNHCR report has starkly highlighted a clear increase in grave violations being committed in Mali, where financial insecurity and deteriorating economic conditions have driven many people deeper into poverty. 230 cases of child recruitment were documented in the first half of 2020 alone, compared with the whole of 2019’s 215 cases, with armed groups trafficking hordes of children for labour in gold mines. (3)   

The second report further warned that nearly 40 million people are now at heightened risk of violence, discrimination, and rights abuses as Covid destroys the some of the world’s most vulnerable people’s access to protection services. Gender-based violence has increased dramatically since the onset of COVID-19, with experts projecting in April that for every three months lockdown measures continued around the world, an additional 15 million women and girls would be exposed to gender-based violence. (4)

War Child UK CEO, Rob Williams says:“The statistics and information we are seeing come through is incredibly concerning. Communities living in war zones have been hit harder still by the pandemic, with basic needs not being met, and a shocking increase in the number of grave violations being committed against children. With no access to protection services these children are being exploited, trafficked and are coming to serious harm. While global efforts to defeat the pandemic are crucial, the world must not forget these most vulnerable children living in conflict. While many of us may have rung in the New Year with hope at the prospect of a vaccine, these children started theirs facing some of the worst circumstances yet. They need our attention and support more than ever”  

(1) https://www.msf.org/dr-congo-msf-urges-humanitarian-organisations-return-southern-north-kivu   

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Aden_attacks   

(3) Child-trafficking in Mali increasing because of conflict and COVID-19  

(4) Nearly 40 million at heightened risk of violence, discrimination and rights abuses as Covid spawns a ‘coping crisis’   

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Notes to editor

About War Child UK

War Child is the only specialist charity for children affected by conflict. For more than two decades we’ve been driven by a single goal – for no child’s life to be torn apart by war. We aim to reach children as early as possible when conflict breaks out and stay to support them through their recovery – keeping them safe, helping them learn and cope with their experiences, and equipping them with skills for the future.    

We understand children’s needs, respect their rights, and put them at the centre of the solution - from supporting Syrian children to access education, to rehabilitating ex-child soldiers in the Central African Republic, and promoting justice for young people in detention in Afghanistan.    

We also campaign for changes to policies and practices to support children in conflict, working with children and young people themselves to demand their rights.   

Together with our partners we deliver our vital, life-saving work in 15 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and Latin America. In 2017 alone, we reached more than half a million children.    


Web: https://www.warchild.org.uk/    

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/WarChildUK    

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Charity number: 1071659