The government must protect the harrowing numbers of children living in conflict zones
Ahead of his Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday 25th April, Chris Law MP writes about the need to do more to protect children living in areas affected by conflict.
With the growing instability around the world, now more than ever, we need to make sure we are protecting children in conflict. Recently, we have seen horrific scenes of children from the most dangerous conflict-affected countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia but also other regions like Myanmar where almost 400,000 Rohingya children have had to flee to Bangladesh for safety.
Despite the collective efforts of the international community, brutal tactics are still commonly used against children and they are suffering things that no child ever should. They are used as suicide bombers, their homes, schools and playgrounds have become battlefields, and the widespread use of indiscriminate weapons like cluster munitions, barrel bombs and improvised explosive devices make no distinction between soldiers and children.
To give just a few examples, in South Sudan, around 13,000 children have been recruited and are being used by all sides of the conflict, putting their lives at risk and changing their futures forever. In Syria, one in five school children are forced to cross lines of fire just to go to school. And in Yemen, it is estimated that one child dies every ten minutes because of extreme hunger and disease resulting from conflict. These children are innocent bystanders in times of conflict, caught up in the violence taking place around them.
Save the Children recently published a report which shows that over 350 million children around the world are currently living in conflict zones – that’s one in every six and an increase of three quarters from the early 90s. These are harrowing figures.
The report found that nearly half of these children are in areas affected by high-intensity conflict where they could be vulnerable to the UN’s six grave violations—killing and maiming, recruitment and use of children, sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian assistance.
The shocking increase in the number of children growing up in areas affected by conflict has been fuelled by a growing disregard for the rules of war, and indiscriminate violence in countries like Syria, South Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan.
In this debate I will be calling on the UK Government to go further to protect children in conflict, including funding conflict-prevention initiatives and peacekeeping. They must also do more to help rebuild their lives after conflicts have come to an end, do more to put children at the centre of reconstruction efforts, and make tangible and meaningful investment in support for children affected by conflict. I will urge the Government to commit to stronger monitoring and reporting mechanisms to properly track child casualties, and stronger justice systems to hold perpetrators to account.
I look forward to this debate and hearing views from across the house on what we can do help innocent children caught up in conflicts around the world. All children deserve peace, safety, security and an opportunity to thrive at life and no effort should be spared to give them a better future, free from the horrors of war.
Chris Law is SNP MP for Dundee West
Save the Children have said that the 'The UK is uniquely well placed to globally champion measures that will protect and improve the lives of children caught up in conflict', read the full report here.