As 2019 winds to its end, a look at major events around the world shows that the decade was characterized by developments of proportionate impacts on humanity – the good, the bad and the ugly. From economic downturns to health crisis to armed conflicts, and the most vulnerable amongst all – children, had their full share of them all, but especially from armed conflicts.
According to news report published by the charity, Save the Children, nearly one in five children live in areas affected by armed conflict and war.
In 2017, about 420 million children were living in conflict-affected areas, a staggering number that has broken every record of conflict effect on children for the past 20 years, the report stated.
The research report, “Stop the War on Children” carried out by the Peace Research Institute Oslo stated that among the hardest conflict-hit areas were Afghanistan, South Sudan, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Central African Republic, Mali, Somalia and of course Nigeria.
According to the report, the reason for the increase in children living in conflict-affected areas in 2017, is that modern warfare has changed the lines of engagement, and fighting in urban areas among civilian populations became more common while international rules of engagement were disregarded.
The Save the Children charity report defined affected children as those living within 50 kilometers (30 miles) of where one or more conflict events took place in a year within a country’s borders.
The result of this has been grave violations of children’s rights and their being abused in so many ways that include getting maimed, killed, recruited or abducted by armed groups. There were also sexual assaults, school attacks and denial of humanitarian aid. The excesses of 2017 heightened the previous figure of 2010, from 10, 000 to 25, 000, and according to United Nations data analyzed in the report, it’s the highest number ever recorded since 2010.
Analysis of the reports showed that children were specially targeted and lack of protective measures for them spiked their vulnerability.
The President and CEO of Save the Children, Carolyn Miles said the rate and style at which these conflicts happen is an indication that children are suffering more than ever.
“The way today’s wars are fought is causing even more suffering for children.
“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 the 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,” she said.
Another notable challenge that has been successfully birthed in areas of conflict, especially in Africa is lack of education for the affected children. In the Northeast Nigeria, occurrence of school attacks by Boko Haram became so rampant that many schools were shut. In 2016, in the same region, over 1 million school children were left out of school due to Boko Haram activities.
The most notorious of the abductions was the Chibok School Girls in April 2014, when 276 girls were taken from their school’s hostel. The attacks on schools continued with so many more kids being abducted.
It was deemed unreasonable to subject schools kids to further attacks from the Islamist armed group, when the Nigerian Military was reportedly using these schools as bases. A report by Human Rights Watch titled “They Set The Classroom on Fire: Attacks on Education in Northeast Nigeria” noted increase in brutal assault by Boko Haram on schools. It stated that between 2009 and 2015, the terrorist group destroyed more than 910 schools and forced at least 1,500 more to close. The conflict led to the death of over 611 teachers and 19, 000 others were forced to flee. There were also cases of abduction involving more than 2, 000 civilians, among them were large groups of students made up of a lot of girls.
The onslaught continued, leading to internal displacement of communities, destroying every basis of education in the region. The number of out-of-school children consequently increased, and many of them were scattered around places of shelter and safety with no access to education.
As the decade drew close to its conclusion, there were over 11 million out-school-children in Nigeria alone. These children were exposed to the devastating reality of lack of education and hunger. Efforts by humanitarian groups were not enough to quell the menace of the organized onslaught against western education that has done more than deny children basic education and nourishment.
In other parts of the world where there is relative peace, the problem has been more of economic hardship. Parents who could barely provide for their families have watched their children helplessly as they grow through hunger and malnutrition.
However, the bleak situation of education in the Northeast Nigeria has made the region a typical example of children’s woes in the world. This is because, according to Unicef, a lot of factors have come into play to create a dysfunction that has altered the essence of education in the region.
“The education deprivation in northern Nigeria is driven by various factors, including economic barriers and socio-cultural norms and practices that discourage attendance in formal education, especially for girls” – Unicef.
The solution has been tied to the Sustainable Development Goals 4, which advocates the prioritization of education and target children who are likely to receive the least education.
“The aim of UNICEF’s education programme is to support the government in achieving SDG 4 by 2030 through improved planning and by addressing some of the systemic barriers that hinder the implementation of an effective education strategy” – Unicef.