UNICEF declares 2014 a devastating year for millions of children
NEW YORK: The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF on
Monday declared 2014 a devastating year for children with as many as 15 million
caught in conflicts in Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria,
Ukraine and the Palestinian territories.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said the high
number of crises meant many of them were quickly forgotten or failed to capture
global headlines, such as in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo,
Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Globally, UNICEF said some 230 million children were
living in countries and regions affected by armed conflict.
“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,” Lake said in a statement, “Never
in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable
Significant threats also emerged to children's health
and well-being like the deadly outbreak of Ebola in the West African countries
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which has left thousands orphaned and some 5
million out of school.
“Violence and trauma do more than harm individual
children - they undermine the strength of societies,” Lake said.
In Central African Republic, where tit-for-tat
sectarian violence has displaced one-fifth of the population, some 2.3 million
children are affected by the conflict with up to 10,000 believed to have been
recruited by armed groups during the past year and more than 430 killed or
maimed, UNICEF said.
Some 538 children were killed and 3,370 injured in the
Palestinian Gaza Strip during a 50-day war between Israeli troops and Hamas
militants, it said.
In Syria, UNICEF said more than 7.3 million children
have been affected by the civil war, including 1.7 million who fled the
country. In neighbouring Iraq an estimated 2.7 million children have been
affected by conflict, it added, with at least 700 believed to have been maimed
or killed this year.
“In both countries, children have been victims of,
witnesses to and even perpetrators of increasingly brutal and extreme violence,”
Some 750,000 children have been displaced in South
Sudan with 320,000 living as refugees. The United Nations said more than 600
children have been killed and more than 200 maimed this year, while some 12,000
are being used by armed groups.