A staggering 149 million children – 30 times the child population of Australia – faced life amid high intensity conflict zones in 2018, according to Stop the War on Children 2020: Gender Matters, released today.
This year’s report contains a systematic analysis of how grave violations – the worst crimes committed against children – impact boys and girls differently.
It found that girls were far more likely to be raped, forced into child marriage or to fall victim to other forms of sexual abuse than boys, while boys were more vulnerable to recruitment by armed forces or armed groups, and abductions. Of the more than 2,500 children abducted by armed groups in 2018, 80 percent were boys.
There were also more than 1,800 attacks on schools or hospitals in 2018 – one every 5 hours, or over 5 per day – representing an increase of more than 30 percent in just 12 months.
A Save the Children hospital in Yemen was among those bombed last year, with four children killed in the March attack. Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia were among those facing a growing number of attacks.
The organisation’s third annual report on the deadly impacts of war on children is being launched ahead of the Munich Security Conference, starting February 14, where world leaders gather to debate international security issues.
“This report details the horrors of war and the shocking way conflict destroys children’s lives. It is unthinkable that in a country like Syria, 99 percent of children are living in areas ravaged by war. This includes 47 Australian children of foreign fighters trapped in Al-Hol camp, who face some of the most horrific conditons imaginable,” Save the Children Australia Director of Policy and International Programs, Mat Tinkler said.
“Yet the world continues to stand by while children are targeted with impunity. Children can and must always be protected, and it is up to world leaders and warring parties to act now to uphold international norms and standards, and make perpetrators answer for their crimes.”
Given Australia’s ambition to become one of the world’s top ten weapons exporters, Mr Tinkler urged the Australian government to lift the veil of secrecy around its defense exports – which lags behind the UK, US and many other states – and to immediately halt the export of weapons to the Saudi-led Coalition operating in Yemen.
“It is unthinkable that the Australian government would continue to allow the export of weapons and defence equipment to countries accused of committing human rights abuses and war crimes in Yemen,” he said.
“With the US decision to reverse its policy to ban the use of anti-personnel landmines outside the Korean Peninsula, Australia should also guarantee it will not include the manufacture or export of anti-personnel landmines or components.
“We know that most people killed by landmines and explosive remnants of war are civilians, and over half of those civilians are children.”
In the last decade there has been a three-fold increase in the number of children killed or maimed in conflict, according to the report.
Amir* was among them, fleeing Iraq to a town in North East Syria following an injury sustained in an airstrike, which resulted in him having his arm amputated. He is now living in a camp with his mother and siblings. Their father’s whereabouts are unknown.
“I remember I used to go to school with my father. He used to drop me off and pick me up. But now I'm in the camp and my father doesn't drop me off or pick me up from school,” he said.
“The day I got injured, I was with my cousin. All of a sudden, we were attacked by shelling. They took us to hospital. The thing that has scared me most during this conflict is my injury.”
Amir’s mother Asma said: “Amir* was bleeding for three hours. He bled from the moment they picked him up until he got to hospital. Before the injuries, Amir* was good, there was nothing wrong with him. Now, sometimes he gets tired, cries and is in pain.”
For media inquiries contact Evan Schuurman on 0406 117 937.
*Name has been changed