Afghanistan set a gruesome record last year: more than 3,500 children were killed in the country, the highest number since the United Nations started keeping track of such incidents in 2009, according to the latest report of the U.N. secretary-general on children and armed conflict released on Friday.
“Afghanistan recorded the highest number of verified child casualties since the UN started documentation of civilian casualties in 2009, with 3,512 children killed or maimed in 2016, an increase of 24% compare to the previous year,” the U.N. said in a release.
The report assessed the situation in 20 countries, and established that children in such countries as Afghanistan, Congo, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, suffer “an unacceptable level of violations by parties to conflict.”
Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said in a press conference that in 2016, there were at least 4,000 verified violations committed by government forces and over 11,500 by non-state actors, like armed groups.
“The level of violations against children is completely unacceptable and merely indicative of the scale of suffering of children as access constraints limit our ability to have the full picture,” Ms. Gamba said.
The U.N. added that in 2016, in Syria alone, the number of children recruited to participate in fighting more than doubled compared to 2015, reaching 851 verified cases. In addition, at least 1,299 Syrian children were killed or maimed.
“Abhorrent tactics used by armed groups like Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, ISIL and the Taliban, have included sexual violence and the use of children as human bombs. In Nigeria, the majority of children casualties resulted from the use of children as human bombs and deaths by suicide attacks,” the U.N. said in the release.
The report also highlighted such issues as the denial of humanitarian access to conflict-torn areas and deprivation of liberty amid increased security screenings, particularly for the refugees.