CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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One child in four victim of conflicts and natural disasters

BEIRUT (AsiaNews): A quarter of the world’s children, about 535 million in total, live in nations affected by wars or disasters, both natural and otherwise. And there are at least 357 million children involved in conflicts. This is what emerges from an investigation published in recent days by UNICEF and illustrated by its executive director Henrietta Fore, during a meeting at the Security Council of the United Nations (UN) focussing on children and armed conflicts. A situation, the expert warns, that goes “almost beyond comprehension” and involves at least one child out of four in total.
 
Addressing the representatives of the 15 member countries of the Council, the senior UN official recalled the situation of children and young people whose lives are devastated by conflict, especially in Yemen, Mali, South Sudan and Syria. Fore also recalled the tragedy of child soldiers, recruited to fight or killed by anti-personnel mines or during attacks on their schools.
 
“The danger is that they can lose hope not only in their future, but also in the future of their own countries,” she warned.
 
Sweden, which holds the Security Council presidency this month, organised the open meeting on the theme “Protecting Children Today Prevents Conflict Tomorrow” and sponsored a resolution unanimously adopted by the 15 members to strengthen actions to ensure the care and safety of youngsters.
 
For the first time, children recruited or involved in conflicts must be treated, first of all, as victims and not as primary actors in the context of fighting. The resolution also calls on all nations to help with the recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration into the society of minors previously hired by armed forces or groups.
 
Furthermore, the resolution emphasises that the needs and difficulties of boys and girls affected by wars and disasters are different and require different answers. In this sense, physical as well as mental education and care become essential.
 
Virginia Gamba, UN special representative for children and armed conflicts, said she was deeply troubled by more than 21 thousand violations against minors and their rights in 2017, a significant increase compared to the previous year, when 15,500 violations were registered. “Most of these cases are the work of armed groups, even if the governments themselves and other actors play an important role,” she said.

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