Africa – Children in West and Central Africa have become the most recruited by armed organizations, with the largest number of sexual abuse victims in the world, according to a new report released Tuesday by the United Nations Children’s Fund. According to the report, the region has seen an increase in the number of new and protracted conflicts over the last five years, with more than 21,000 children recruited by government forces and armed groups, more than 2,200 victims of sexual violence, and more than 3,500 abducted, making it the world’s second most abducted region.
“We have the largest number of children in our region that have been recruited and used by armed groups.” We have the largest number of youngsters who have been sexually abused or raped. We are the second region in which children have been kidnapped. “ The Associated Press spoke with Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa. Because these infractions are cumulative, it is quite rare for a child to be subjected to just one of them, she said. Since the United Nations developed a system to monitor and report on grave breaches against minors, such as recruitment, abduction, rape, and attacks on schools and hospitals in 2005, West and Central Africa have committed one out of every four violations worldwide.
According to the United Nations, violence has had devastating humanitarian consequences for children and communities in conflict-affected countries such as the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin regions, with the pandemic exacerbating the situation. As a result of conflict and the coronavirus, more than 57 million children require humanitarian aid, a number that has risen since last year. While the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the highest rate of children recruited and employed by armed groups in the world and where children are in a particularly vulnerable position, UNICEF is concerned about the situation in other countries.
“The DRC continues to account for 71% of all recruitment and utilization of children in armed conflicts. However, Mali and the Central African Republic have seen the most rapid growth in recent years, “Poirier explained. For nearly a decade or more, some countries have been a source of concern. This year, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and the Lake Chad Basin were added to the United Nations’ annual report on children and armed conflict. The report emphasizes the issue of armed organizations recruiting or kidnapping girls. According to the survey, they account for 30 to 40 percent of the children in those groups’ care, and they are the ones who have experienced the most rape and sexual assault.
“The majority of the victims of rape and sexual abuse are females,” the UNICEF regional director noted, “but these girls have great hesitancy even after they flee, even when they are reintegrated.” Many people are hesitant to seek help, and many people are hesitant to use services because of the enormous shame connected with what occurred to them. The United Nations is urging parties to the conflict to prevent and end violations against children, to hold perpetrators accountable, and for aid organizations to increase documentation of violations, as well as prevent and respond to them, by providing not only health and education, but also psychological support.
More than $92 million is needed for child protection in emergencies across West and Central Africa, with more than half of that amount still unfunded. Poirier stated, “The situation is basically snowballing in the wrong direction.”