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Children suffered a shocking scale of violence in conflict zones in 2017, Unicef warns

In conflicts around the world, children have become frontline, used as human shields, killed, maimed and recruited to fight.

ROA170305175 A child stands by a fire lit for heat in the courtyard of a home after fleeing ISIS conflict - Iraq Alessio Romenzi Alessio Romenzi

CHILDREN IN CONFLICT zones around the world have come under attack at a shocking scale throughout the year, Unicef has warned.

In a report summarising 2017 as a violent and brutal year for children, the agency has said parties to conflicts have been blatantly disregarding international humanitarian laws designed to protect the most vulnerable.

In conflicts around the world, children have become frontline, used as human shields, killed, maimed and recruited to fight.

Rape, forced marriage, abduction and enslavement have become standard tactics in conflicts from Iraq, Syria and Yemen, to Nigeria, South Sudan and Myanmar, Unicef said.

Some 27 million children in conflict zones have been forced to leave school.

“Children are being targeted and exposed to attacks and brutal violence in their homes, schools and playgrounds,” Unicef director of emergency programmes Manuel Fontaine said.

“As these attacks continue year after year, we cannot become numb. Such brutality cannot be the new normal.”

yemen-in-crisis_giles-clarke_009 A student stands in the ruins of one of his former classrooms - Yemen Unicef Unicef

Over the course of 2017, children have suffered the following horrific brutality:

  • In Afghanistan, almost 700 children were killed in the first nine months of the year.
  • In the Central African Republic, children were killed, raped, abducted and recruited by armed groups.
  • Boko Haram, a jihadist organisation, forced at least 135 children to act as suicide bombers, nearly five times the number in 2016.
  • Violence drove 850,000 children from their homes, while more than 200 health centres and 400 schools were attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • In South Sudan, more than 19,000 children have been recruited into armed forces, and over 2,300 children have been killed or injured since December 2013.
  • In Somalia, nearly 1,800 children were recruited to fight in the first 10 months of the year.
  • Nearly 1,000 days of fighting in Yemen left at least 5,000 children dead or injured, and more than 11 million children needed humanitarian assistance.
  • Around 220,000 children lived under constant threat of mines and under explosive remnants of war in eastern Ukraine.

Children in the Middle East and south-east Asia have also been affected by severe conflict.

In Iraq and Syria, children have reportedly been used as human shields, trapped under siege, targeted by snipers and lived through intense bombardment and violence.

In Myanmar, Rohingya children suffered and witnessed shocking and widespread violence as they were attacked and driven from their homes in Rakhine state.

Unicef is calling on all parties in conflict to abide by their obligations under international laws to immediately end violations against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals.

The agency has also called on states with influence over non-state parties in conflict to use that influence to protect children.

Read: Around 40 killed and 30 wounded in Kabul suicide attack

More: Critically ill adults and children evacuated from besieged region of Syria

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