Nearly 200 million children are currently living in the world’s most lethal war zones, the highest figure in over a decade, according to figures compiled by a global NGO.
The number of children in conflict zones in 13 countries jumped nearly 20% in 2020 from 162 million in 2019, making it the second-highest figure on record since 208 million in 2008, read a report released by Save the Children International on Tuesday.
“This spike was driven partly by outbreaks of violence in Mozambique, as well as ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, the DR Congo, Nigeria, and Yemen, which are already on the frontline of climate change’s worst impacts and coping with life-threatening hunger crises,” read the report.
“The sharp increase in 2020 shows that a global pandemic and the United Nations’ call for a global cease-fire were not enough to halt these wars.”
It also revealed that 337 million children were living near armed groups and government forces that recruit children, a threefold increase from three decades ago.
“The number of countries where children are recruited – and where more than half the world’s children (nearly 1.3 billion) live – also jumped to 39, its highest in 30 years,” the report said.
Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, the Philippines, and Iraq have the highest percentage of children living near an armed group or force that has recruited children, it added.
Girls made up 15% of UN-reported cases of recruitment in 2020, often forced to “act as spies, to lay mines and improvised explosive devices, or to act as suicide bombers because they are less likely to draw attention.”
“Their vulnerability, low status, and gender also make them susceptible to widespread abuse,” the report said.
Inger Ashing, head of Save the Children International, said it was “simply horrifying” to see that “more children than ever before are caught in the crosshairs of the deadliest war zones.”
“Not even a global pandemic was enough to stop the most brutal wars and atrocities,” she said.
“Millions of children have known nothing but war with appalling consequences for their mental health, ability to go to school, or access to life-saving services. This is a stain on the international community and cannot go on.”