250m children live in conflict-torn countries, says UNICEF

UNICEF announces that as the world celebrates Universal Children’s Day nearly 250 million children live in war-torn countries and at least 200,000 of them have faced death

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

Children displaced by the fighting in Bor county stand on the side of a boat in the port in Minkaman in South Sudan.

According to a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) report on Friday, almost 250 million children live in conflict-torn countries and at least 200,000 children’s lifes have been at risk. 

Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, stated, "Yet children make up almost half of the world’s poor, nearly 250 million children live in conflict-torn countries, and over 200,000 have risked their lives this year seeking refuge in Europe."

However, Lake also said, "In just over a generation, the world has cut child death rates by half, put over 90 per cent of children in primary school, and increased by 2.6 billion the number of people with access to safe water.”

In low and middle-income countries, 31 percent of children under the age of 15 live with HIV in 2014 while 40 percent of adults and adolescents 15 and older are infected with HIV, the report said.

"Such vast inequities fuel a vicious intergenerational cycle of poverty and disadvantage," Lake said.

British actor and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom said that children who live in conflict zones have been affected by armed conflict, witnessed clashes and their health and education have been disrupted.

He said, "I travelled with UNICEF to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia to see the how war is driving children and their families from their homes," and added, "The world is facing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. Every country that should be supporting the children and the families who have been affected."

UNICEF regional director Peter Salama said, "It's no coincidence in that what we see in terms of our TV pictures, the tragic pictures of people crossing on boats to Greece and Italy, very much comes back to the Syrian conflict and [to] the Iraqi conflict to a lesser extent."

Salama said that children are increasingly becoming combatants at a young age while students and teachers have been killed, kidnapped and arrested.

"We're on the verge of losing an entire generation of children in the Middle East and North Africa. We must step up, otherwise it will be irreversible and long-term damage we've collectively inflicted upon the children of this region."

UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon also said in a statement that large numbers of children become weak in detention and lose their mental health.

“Some children are shieldless because they are migrants, asylum seekers, homeless or preyed on by organized criminals. Whatever the circumstances, the Convention dictates that the deprivation of liberty must be a measure of last resort, and for the shortest time,” he stated and continued, “Our aim must be to pursue the best interests of the child, prevent the deprivation of liberty and promote alternatives to detention.”

TRTWorld and agencies