In an exclusive interview in 2018, Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programs said, “Children living in conflict zones around the world have continued to suffer through extreme levels of violence over the past 12 months, and the world has continued to fail them.” A total of 30 million children were forced out of their homes and others are at risk of dying from secondary effects of this violence.
Worst countries to be a child in Africa
South Sudan is considered an unfriendly country in Africa especially to women and children due to the civil war which broke out in 2013, just 2 years after independence. The civil war has led to the excessive physical violence and human rights violations on children and their mothers. More than 4 million people have been displaced and over 400,000 killed, among which are children.
Also, South Sudan is reputed the recruitment of child soldiers, as over 19,000 children have served as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers and sex slaves, since the war broke out in 2013. As a result of all this insecurity and violence, there is a high level of poverty, hunger, lack of education, diseases, lack of medical facilities and other basic needs.
According to UNICEF Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, children below the age of 18 are involved in 25% of cases of sexual violence. After 8 years of violence and suffering, these children are traumatized and stigmatized. Some of the freed child soldiers have expressed their fear of being recaptured and put through the atrocities they went through during their time as soldiers. Many of these children face difficulties reincorporating themselves in their communities.
Over the years, Nigeria’s Middle Belt, has faced security challenges from two major groups; the Fulani/Hausa herdsmen and Boko Haram Islamic sect. These armed groups have inflicted untold suffering on the population in and around northern Nigeria.
The over 30 year-long farmer-herder conflict in northern Nigeria over grazing and farm land, between predominantly Fulani/Hausa herders and Christian farmers escalated in 2018, leading to a serious massacre of Christians and non-Muslim people who share the same community.
The two groups have indulged in human right violations such as kidnapping, rape, abduction, suicide bombing, and jihadist activities. Apart from indiscriminate killings, their main targets are young girls below 18. Most of the young girls taken by both groups are forced into marriages, used as suicide bombers, caretakers, some sexually assaulted, impregnated and abandoned.
In April 2014, 276 female students were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State by Boko Haram. Some were freed by the Nigerian military in 2016 while some are still in captivity. In February 2018, this same group abducted 110 girls and a boy from a college in Dapchi, Yobe State and later released about 100 of them. According to UNICEF, more than 30,000 people fled their homes including 11,000 children below 18 and 5,000 others have lost their parents.
Central African Republic
Central African Republic is another African country where being a child is a challenge due to the conflicts which began in 2012 after Francois Bozize came to power. The country has since then been in turmoil as a result of fighting between armed Muslim and Christian militias, and the government forces.
UNICEF warned in 2016 that close to 2 million children were in more need of humanitarian assistance such as food, medical services, educational facilities, rehabilitations centres for children brutalized by armed groups and feared that the civil war and the violence against children was going to lead to more refugee displacement, diseases, more hunger and malnutrition if immediate action was not taken.
UNICEF representative for Central African Republic Christine Muhigana said recently, “The children of the Central African Republic have been abandoned for too long, they need attention and help now, and they will need it for the long run.”
Democratic Republic of Congo
Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced a series of wars and socio-political instability for many decades now whose causes range from ethnic differences to the scramble for minerals.
Apart from insecurity caused by political unrest, child labour is another major concern is this region. Children are forced to work for little or no pay; under deplorable conditions in cobalt, copper, diamond, tantalum, tin, and gold mines in order to satisfy high international demand.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 1.5 million inhabitants; including 500,000 children in the Kasai region have fled their homes, raising the total number of displaced persons in the DRC to about 4 million.
A 2018 UNICEF report states that most deaths in Congo are due to malnutrition and widespread diseases such as Cholera, Measles and the Ebola Crisis. Most of the victims who have died are children under the age of 5. The ongoing conflicts make it impossible for children to have access to medical assistance.
African leaders and governments need to create enabling environments with access to basic needs for children African communities. They could start by finding long lasting solutions to the problems such as conflicts, wars, diseases, which endanger children and lead to the violations of their rights. Also, rehabilitation centers should be established for children who have been exposed to any form of violence and are facing any form of physical or psychological trauma.
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Credit image: google images/African children