Report: 21,000 Child Soldiers in West Africa
The U.N. Children’s Fund released a report showing that more than 21,000 West African children have been recruited as child soldiers since 2016.
The report also found more than 2,200 instances of sexual violence, 3,500 child abductions, and 1,500 attacks on hospitals within the past five years.
“UNICEF has been working with governments, local authorities and partners to strengthen the monitoring and reporting mechanism, support the release and reintegration of children from armed forces and non-state armed groups, reunite separated children with their families, provide mental health and psychosocial care for conflict-affected children, and provide care for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence,” the report said.
Since 2016, the region has consistently seen the highest number of grave violations against children in armed conflict. Grave violations are defined by six categories: killing or maiming, recruitment in armed conflict, abduction, sexual violence, attacks on schools or hospitals, and denial of humanitarian aid.
“The numbers and trends are extremely worrying for current, and future generations of children,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa.
“Not only have grave violations against children perpetrated by parties to the conflicts not stopped across West and Central Africa, but we have even seen a spike over the past five years, with a 50% increase in the total number of verified grave violations,” she said.