Silent Tragedy 4

March 3, 2021

According to the United Nations the pandemic is fuelling risk of recruitment and use of children in conflicts. Boys and girls are recruited as child soldiers by armed forces and groups in conflict in over 20 countries around the world.

According to the United Nations the covid-19 pandemic is fuelling risk of recruitment and use of children in conflicts. The “Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict” warns that tens of thousands of boys and girls are recruited and used as child soldiers by armed forces and armed groups in conflict in over 20 countries around the world, and that more children could be pushed into the joining armed forces and armed groups worldwide due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, declared that “the impact of the covid-19 pandemic is daunting: poverty and lack of opportunities increase even further push and pull factors for child recruitment and use by armed forces and armed groups as well as sexual violence or abduction

In her latest annual Report to the UN “Human Rights Council”, Virginia Gamba highlighted the exacerbated impact of covid-19 on conflict-affected children making them more vulnerable to grave violations: “Their rights to education and health, and access to justice, social services and humanitarian aid, have been restricted. I am deeply concerned about the adverse impact of the covid-19 pandemic on children affected by armed conflict”.

She called upon taking into account child protection concerns when designing and enforcing measures to contain the pandemic and to ensure that child protection services can continue amid the pandemic. “Children are tragically paying the highest price”, she said. “Education opportunities, already disrupted by war and displacement, are further vanishing. Education is crucial in preventing the recruitment and use of children.”

She expressed concern about the increasing instrumentalization of schools as part of hostilities and stresses that it is fundamental to preserve their civilian character, including during school closures enforced due to the covid-19 pandemic. “The military use of schools can never be justified, including when buildings are temporarily closed due to lockdowns, particularly in countries with fragile education systems where education is a scarce commodity.”

“Children around the world”, she explained, “continue to suffer from the consequences of conflicts and are still being used as expendable fuel of war. Armed forces and armed groups continue to recruit and use children, tearing them away from their families and communities, cruelly stripping away their dignity and destroying their lives and their future. Only a fraction of those released are benefiting from reintegration programmes.”

 “There are many ways for children to become associated with armed forces and groups and their tasks can vary. However, no matter their role, child soldiers are exposed to acute levels of violence – as witnesses, direct victims, and as forced participants.”

“Insecurity prevents thousands of children from accessing quality education and health care while schools and hospitals continue to be targeted, and despite being victims, children remain unlawfully in detention for their alleged or actual association with armed forces and groups”.

“Grave violations of children’s rights are not inevitable by-products of war: they are preventable. As the vulnerability of boys and girls living amidst hostilities is exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic, processes such as ceasefires, peace negotiations, and security sector reform are opportunities to protect children.”

UN News
“Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict”
Full Annual 2020 “Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict”