December 29, 2014 – The global statistics are devastating and heartbreaking – a sanguinary stream of seven and eight digit numbers represent the faces of children who continue to suffer horrific, maniacal acts of brutality and violence. An estimated 15 million children were physically and mentally tormented amid warring conflicts in Iraq, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, the State of Palestine, Syria, Ukraine and Pakistan in 2014.
“We must choose between the violence of adults and the smiles of children, between the ugliness of hate and the will to oppose it. Between inflicting suffering and humiliation on our fellow man and offering him the solidarity and hope he deserves. Or not.”
Elie Wiesel, ‘Open Heart’
“Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds; they have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves,” said Anthony Lake, the Executive Director for UNICEF.
This has been a year of ruination for millions of children as well as an escalation in barbaric attacks at schools and health facilities. Two weeks ago, 121 schoolchildren at the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, Pakistan were murdered senselessly and savagely, and scores of others were seriously wounded.
In September 2013, children and choir members attending Sunday school were among 81 people killed in a suicide bombing at the Protestant All Saints Church of Pakistan. And who could forget the 1,200 schoolchildren and adults in Beslan, Russia, that were attacked by Chechen rebels. The siege ended on September 3, 2004 with 334 people killed, including 186 children, and more than 700 people wounded.
Central African Republic
- More than 430 children have been killed and maimed. This number represents three times as many as in 2013.
- 54,000 children were left homeless as a result of the 50-day conflict during the summer.
- 538 children were killed and more than 3,370 were injured.
"Safety and security don't just happen; they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa
- More than 7.3 million children were affected by the conflict including 1.7 million child refugees suffering and being witness to brutal and extreme violence.
- United Nations verified at least 35 attacks on schools in the first nine months of the year, which killed 105 children and injured nearly 300 others.
- An estimated 2.7 million children are victims of, and witness to, brutal and extreme violence in conflicts.
- About 700 children are believed to have been maimed, killed and executed this year.
- An estimated 235,000 children under the age of five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
- About 750,000 children have been displaced and more than 320,000 are living as refugees.
- More than 600 children were killed and over 200 were maimed this year according to the United Nations report.
- An estimated 12,000 children are now being recruited and used in armed groups.
- 1.7 million children are suffering among armed conflict during the harsh, winter weather.
- Families have been forced from their homes and don’t have access to basic services such as water, sanitation and schooling.
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone
- Ebola outbreaks have left thousands of children orphaned and an estimated 5 million out of school.
- More than 55% of Afghan children have suffered damage to their minds and bodies due to chronic malnourishment during the first two years of life. Stunting is largely irreversible and has a strong impact on growth, development and cognitive function.
- Violence is spreading as foreign troops prepare to go home. Afghanistan remains one of the world's poorest countries, with low life expectancy and poor healthcare for mothers and young children.
“When all men give to all others all the rights they claim for themselves, this world will be civilized.”
Robert G. Ingersoll,
‘The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child’
Democratic Republic of Congo
- An estimated 2.63 million people are internally displaced and humanitarian access in certain areas remains extremely challenging.
- In a climate marked by serious human rights violations, the number of children used by armed groups remains a major concern.
- An estimated 2 million young children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
- 43% of all Pakistani children under the age of five are suffering from chronic malnutrition.
- Pakistan is one of the most disaster prone countries in the world. It sustains multiple catastrophes every year affecting livelihood and nutritional security. Limited access to food, water, sanitation and medical services, has compromised the health and coping capacities of the most vulnerable communities.
“It is sadly ironic that in this, the 25th anniversary year of the Convention on the Rights of the Child when we have been able to celebrate so much progress for children globally, the rights of so many millions of other children have been so brutally violated. Violence and harm do more than harm individual children - they undermine the strength of societies. The world can and must do more to make 2015 a much better year for every child. For every child who grows up strong, safe, healthy and educated is a child who can go on to contribute to her own, her family's, her community's, her nation's and, indeed, to our common future,” said Anthony Lake.
Things Haven’t Changed
When I was a young girl I did not understand why people became so angry. Sporadic displays of skewed, fuming faces spewing loud, threatening words of doom were visible on city streets, in the newspaper, at the schoolyard – and in my home. What was all the yelling about and what did it have to do with me? I wondered. I worried.
I had come upon an advertisement for a series of books on World Wars through ‘Life’ Magazine and thought they would provide me with the answers I needed. I filled out the subscription form, dropped it in the mailbox and within six weeks received my first book.
I anxiously started reading page after page and chapter after chapter, with a dictionary nearby to define the many ‘never-before-seen’ words. I remember the first picture I saw of lifeless bodies bundled in a merciless, pyric heap while a vainglorious officer stood over them like a safari trophy killing. I couldn’t get past the thought that these people – these nameless, faceless victims of circumstance belonged to somebody.
Oddly enough, my mother was not upset with me when I showed her the invoice for the first book. She read the title, fanned the pages, stopped to look at some of the pictures and then proceeded to investigate my face with a modicum of miasmic puzzlement. Why would a young girl want to read about world leaders, warring countries, battlefield strategies, human suffering and casualties? She never questioned my interest but every now and then I would look up and our eyes would meet at a disturbingly silent, yet familiar ground.
The books continued to arrive month after month for about two years and I, in turn, became more and more aware of human dysfunction, fractures and frailties on this our wondrous, innocent and Eden-esque earth.
Did I ever find answers to my question? No, I did not. All these years later nothing much has changed.
I do not understand now as I did not understand then why some people have a ceaseless capacity for hatred, greed and the insatiable thirst for power and vengeance. What I do understand is that innocent people, specifically children, always pay the price for cowardice, greed and ignorance.
I continue to question the word ‘civilized’ for I do not believe we have realized its intent or potential.
UNICEF and its partners have worked together to provide life-saving assistance and critical services including education and emotional support to instil hope for those children who are living in the most dangerous places in the world.
A campaign is under way to get 662,000 children back to school in the Central African Republic as the security situation permits.
Nearly 68 million doses of oral polio vaccine were delivered to countries in the Middle East to stem a polio outbreak in Iraq and Syria.
In South Sudan, more than 70,000 children were treated for severe malnutrition.
Work continues in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to combat the Ebola virus through:
- support for community care centres and Ebola treatment Units;
- training of health workers
- awareness-raising campaigns to reduce the risks of transmission; and
- support children orphaned by Ebola.
- In Sierra Leone, one in 5 children dies before the age of five.
- There are 2.2 billion children in the world.
- Of the 50% of countries with available data, more than 80% of children 2 to 14 years of age have been subjected to violent discipline.
- In Somalia, 49% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 are involved in child labour.
- 15% of the world’s childrenengage in child labour, which compromises their right to protection from economic exploitation and infringes on their right to learn and play.
- 11% of girls are married before they turn 15,jeopardizing their rights to health, education and protection.
- 18,000 children under 5 years of age die every day. A disproportionate number of children are from parts of cities or the countryside that are cut off from services because of poverty or geography. Many could be saved by proven means and at little cost.
The State of the World’s Children 2014 In Numbers: Every Child Counts - revealing disparities, advancing children’s rights – UNICEF