According to a recent UNICEF report, more than 21,000 children have been recruited over the last five years by the armed forces or groups in the two regions.

Grave violations against children, including torture and sexual abuse, have hit the alarming numbers in West and Central Africa in the last five years.

UNICEF in its latest report says the number of violations found in the region is highest in the world. 

“West and Central Africa has been the region in the world with the highest number of children verified as recruited and used by armed forces and non-state armed groups and the highest number of children verified as victims of sexual violence,” the report said.

West and Central Africa also has the second-highest number of abductions as these crimes targeting children have been increasing especially over the last five years.

Since 2016, “West and Central Africa has recorded more than 21,000 children verified by the United Nations (UN) as recruited and used by armed forces and non-state armed groups, and more than 2,200 children victims of sexual violence.”

Furthermore, more than 3,500 children were abducted and at least 1,500 incidents of attacks targeting schools and hospitals were recorded.

Over the past five years, West and Central Africa has consistently recorded some of the highest numbers of UN-verified grave violations against children.
Over the past five years, West and Central Africa has consistently recorded some of the highest numbers of UN-verified grave violations against children. (TRTWorld)

According to a monitoring mechanism established by the UN 2005, child abuses are reported by the agency based on the six grave violations against children.

In 2005, the UN Security Council passed a resolution for monitoring and reporting on the following six grave violations against children during armed conflict: “1) killing and maiming of children, 2) recruitment and use of children, 3) abduction of children, 4) rape and other forms of sexual violence committed against children, 5) attacks on schools and hospitals, and 6) denial of humanitarian access.”

Since 2005, every one out of four grave violations in the world was committed in East and Central Africa.

Last year alone, more than 6,400 children were exposed to at least one of the UN listed violations in the region as 32 percent of them were girls.

“Whether children in West and Central Africa are the direct targets or collateral victims, they are caught up in conflict and face violence and insecurity. The grave violations of their rights perpetrated by parties to the conflicts are unacceptable. They have an adverse impact on their capacity to learn, work, build meaningful relationships and contribute to the development of their communities and countries”, said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. 

“UNICEF calls on all parties to conflicts in the region to prevent and end grave violations against children, and to ensure that all perpetrators are held accountable,” Poirier added.

There are several humanitarian crises across West and Central Africa especially in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Moreover, there are some multi-country emergencies in the Central Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin, which had devastating consequences on people, especially children.

Due to the surge in armed conflicts, alongside Covid-19 pandemic, “57.5 million children in West and Central Africa are in need of humanitarian assistance, a figure that has almost doubled since 2020.”

To cope with humanitarian crisis and violations within the region, “UNICEF has been working with governments, local authorities and partners to strengthen the monitoring and reporting mechanism, support the release and reintegration of children from armed forces and groups, reunite separated children with their families, provide medical and psychosocial care for conflict-affected children, and provide care for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.”

Source: TRT World