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UN envoy: conflicts in 2015 have taken 'huge toll' on children

[JURIST] Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict released her annual report [document, PDF] on Monday on the situation of children in conflict zones from December 2014 to 2015. She reports that children worldwide continually faced human rights violations and the effect of conflict was "unyielding" in places like the Central African Republic, Israel and the State of Palestine, Libya, South Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen. Furthermore, children were "often" direct targets of violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and Syria. A grave example of what children have faced was between May and August 2015 in South Sudan in which witnesses and survivors gave accounts of "children being thrown into burning houses, run over by military vehicles and hanged from trees, and of girls being killed if they resisted rape". Displacement of civilians seeking refuge from conflict has led to the highest number of displaced persons since World War II, including millions of children. Indiscriminate airstrikes have severely maimed and killed children and state-allied militias have mobilized and recruited children for conflicts. Education has been severely disrupted for millions of children and the Special Representative expressed [UN News Centre] deep concern for the increasing number of attacks on schools and military use of schools.

Children have been at-risk groups in various conflicts worldwide. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch said [JURIST report] that hostiles in eastern Ukraine had damaged or destroyed hundreds of school, many of which were being used for military purposes. Also this month, UN human rights experts in Nigeria urged [JURIST report] the government to guarantee the safety of areas liberated from Boko Haram. A recent raid resulted in more than 90 individuals, primarily women and children. Also earlier this month, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, expressed [JURIST report] "utmost alarm" at the worsening situation in Syria and said that parties were "constantly sinking to new depths" attacking women, children, the sick and the elderly. In Flint, Michigan, children were poisoned [JURIST commentary] by drinking lead-laden tap water causing brain damage. In August, the UN reported [JURIST report] that the number of women and children being hurt or killed in Afghanistan's war against the Taliban have risen by 23 and 13 percent, respectively.

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