Children affected by conflict in Africa call on goverments to protect most vulnerable

By agency reporter
October 16, 2019

Children and youth from Ethiopia, Mali, South Sudan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo have gathered in Addis Ababa to demand African decision makers enact changes in their countries to ensure children are safe in times of conflict.

The children and youth are meeting in Addis Ababa from 15 – 17 October as part of the inaugural Pan-African Conference on Children and Armed Conflict, organised by child-rights organisation African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and international NGO Save the Children, with the financial support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

The conference will bring together children and youth alongside delegates from the African Union, government representatives and policy makers, child protection experts, members of academia and civil society, to discuss how international and regional mechanisms can better protect children affected by armed conflict in Africa. The conference is intended to act as both a wakeup call to policy makers in conflict-affected African countries, and as a platform in which to develop a Road Map for action to protect children in situations of conflict.

“The war on Africa’s children persists and it’s getting worse”, said Dr Assefa Bequele, Executive Director of ACPF. “Africa’s leaders are failing to protect their children from the horrors of war. Despite repeated UN Security Council resolutions, international conventions and regional agreements, African children continue to suffer. Progress on protection is deplorably slow, and perpetrators are rarely brought to justice for war crimes and grave violations.”

ACPF’s new report, In the Firing Line: The War on Africa’s Children reveals that hundreds of thousands of children are dying every year as a result of conflict-induced malnutrition, disease and the breakdown of healthcare, water and sanitation.

At least one in four African children lives in a conflict zone and the numbers of ‘grave violations’ against children have almost tripled since 2010, according to Save the Children’s Stop the War on Children report, released in February 2019. 

“We urge the UN, the African Union and warring parties to end the numerous wars on the continent and step-up measures to protect children affected by conflict”, said Helena Thybell, CEO of Save the Children Sweden. “We demand that children caught up in situations of conflict are afforded safety, justice and the practical help they need to recover.” 

“African governments must take all necessary measures to end the killing and maiming, abductions, sexual violence, and recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, and they must cease attacks on schools, hospitals and humanitarian operations, as well as ensure that perpetrators of violations against children are held accountable", she added.

Dr Assefa Bequele noted that“The war on Africa’s children, often underreported, is fuelled by food insecurity, climate change, poor governance, absence of the rule of law, corruption, intercommunal tensions and violent extremism. Chronic underdevelopment, civil war, political instability and terrorism have created a perfect storm of child abductions, forced recruitment, rape and trafficking. Child protection in African conflict zones is weak, fragmented and underfunded.

“We hope that the Pan-African Conference on Children and Armed Conflict sends a clear message to the UN, AU, all actors to the conflicts, and to African political leaders. These tragedies are happening on our watch, and we are currently failing to protect children affected by armed conflict”, stated Dr. Bequele.

Fatou (the name has been changed), aged14, from Mali, said:  “Growing up in a conflict zone denies children like me the right to a consistent education, security and a future with hope. I have friends who have lost loved ones, who cannot sleep at night due to the traumatic situations they have been in. I want to tell world leaders that enough is enough.”

* Read Stop the War on Children here

* African Child Policy Forum http://africanchildforum.org/en/index.php/en/

* Save the Children https://www.savethechildren.net/

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