Five times more children than fighters are being killed in conflicts, new Save the Children report reveals

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At least 550,000 babies are thought to have died as a result of armed conflict between 2013 and 2017 in the 10 worst-affected countries, according to new analysis by Save the Children — an average of well over 100,000 every year. DR Congo – where more than 90% of the nearly 45,000 refugees in Zambia come from – is listed among the 10 worst countries. Since late 2017, Zambia has received over 20,000 refugees from the DR Congo.

The infants succumbed to indirect effects of conflict and war such as hunger, damaged infrastructure and hospitals, a lack of access to health care and sanitation, and the denial of aid. They probably would not have died if they hadn’t been living in areas affected by conflict, Save the Children says.

In total, 870,000 children under five years old have died in conflict areas in this period – five times as many as the number of fighters killed (almost 175,000).

The numbers are published in a new Save the Children report, Stop the War on Children, which reveals that more children – almost 1 in 5 globally – are living in areas affected by armed conflict and war than at any time in more than 20 years.

Duncan Harvey, Save the Children’s Country Director in Zambia, said: “As Save the Children, we are concerned about the numbers of children being affected by conflicts. These are conflicts children have no say in and yet they are the most affected. Through our refugee response work in Nchelenge district in Luapula Province we have seen first-hand the impact war has on children. We are calling on the Zambian government and other governments to do more to stop the war on children in the DR Congo and other parts of the world.”

The report shows that the number of ‘grave violations’ against children – being killed or maimed; recruited by armed groups; abducted; falling victim to sexual violence; seeing their school attacked; or humanitarian aid denied – has almost tripled since 2010. In many cases, children are specifically targeted, and children in DRC are particularly vulnerable.

Kangonge*, 16 (Mantapala Refugee Resettlement Area), shared how he witnessed the brutal murder of his family: “One day the soldiers came to our village and started shooting everyone. I saw my mother and other relatives being shot in front of my eyes. I was fortunate to run away with my mother’s younger brother with whom we run for weeks in the bush with others and eventually found ourselves in Zambia. It is hard for me to forget what happened and when I think about my experience, it makes me very sad.”

The report stresses the importance of urgently getting refugee children back into education and have access to health services, to help them return to a sense of normalcy and have an opportunity for a better future. The report further includes more than 20 recommendations for governments and other influential organisations to ensure children are protected during war and conflict, ranging from signing the Safe Schools Declaration to multi-year investment in humanitarian child protection, education and programmes to tackle sexual and gender-based violence.

In 2017-18, Save the Children worked with the Zambian government, UNHCR, UNICEF and other partners to respond to the refugee influx in Nchelenge District of Zambia with Child Protection and Education programme activities. In the process, we constructed 12 classrooms, two youth friendly spaces and four child friendly spaces. Save the Children and its partners also trained teachers, parents and caregivers in child safeguarding, child protection, psychosocial counselling and positive parenting, in order to ensure the safety of child refugees in the Mantapala Resettlement Area.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children International, said: “Our report shows that the way today’s wars are being fought is causing more suffering for children. It is shocking that in the 21st century we are going backwards on principles and moral standards that are so simple – children and civilians should never be targeted. Our analysis clearly shows the situation is getting worse for children and the world is allowing this travesty to happen. Every day, children come under attack because armed groups and military forces disregard international laws and treaties. From the use of chemical weapons to rape as a weapon of war, war crimes are being committed with impunity.”

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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31