Some child-right organisations under the aegis of African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and Save the Children International, have called on African leaders to take measures to protect children in armed conflict situations.
Dr Assefa Bequele, the Executive Director of ACPF, made the appeal in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Abuja.
Bequele made the call at the ongoing inaugural Pan-African Conference on Children and Armed Conflict in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
He said that children and youth from Ethiopia, Mali, South Sudan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo had converged to demand African decision makers enact changes in their countries to ensure children’s safety in times of conflict.
Bequele said that the conference had been organised to discuss how international and regional mechanisms could better protect children affected by armed conflict in Africa.
According to him, the conference is intended to act as both a wakeup call to policy makers in conflict-affected countries, and as a platform to develop a Road Map for action to protect children in situations of conflict.
“The war on Africa’s children persists and it’s getting worse and African leaders are failing to protect their children from the horrors of war.
“Despite repeated UN Security Council resolutions, international conventions and regional agreements, African children continue to suffer.
“Progress on protection is deplorably slow, and perpetrators are rarely brought to justice for war crimes and grave violations.
“ACPF’s new report, In the Firing Line: The War on Africa’s Children reveals that hundreds of thousands of children are dying every year as a result of conflict-induced malnutrition, disease and the breakdown of healthcare, water and sanitation.
“At least one in four African children lives in a conflict zone and the numbers of ‘grave violations’ against children have almost tripled since 2010, according to Save the Children’s Stop the War on Children report, released in February 2019,” he said.
Bequele also noted that the war on Africa’s children was often fuelled by food insecurity, climate change, poor governance, absence of the rule of law, corruption, inter communal tensions and violent extremism.
He added that chronic underdevelopment, civil war, political instability and terrorism had created a perfect storm of child abductions, forced recruitment, rape and trafficking.
According to him, child protection in African conflict zones is weak, fragmented and underfunded.
“We hope that the Pan-African Conference on Children and Armed Conflict sends a clear message to the UN, AU, all actors to the conflicts, and to African political leaders.
“These tragedies are happening on our watch, and we are currently failing to protect children affected by armed conflict,” Bequele added.
Also, Helena Thybell, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Sweden, urged the UN, the African Union and warring parties to end the numerous wars on the continent and step-up measures to protect children affected by conflict.
Thybell added that children caught up in situations of conflict should be afforded safety, justice and the practical help they need to recover.
“African governments must take all necessary measures to end the killing and maiming, abductions, sexual violence, and recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.
“They must cease attacks on schools, hospitals and humanitarian operations, as well as ensure that perpetrators of violations against children are held accountable,” she added. (NAN)