Children and armed conflict in Somalia, Sudan and Myanmar

Burmese children in the Kanpetlet village Credits: Burmese children in the Kanpetlet village Credits: © Photo by Davidevison on iStock

This article is a brief presentation of the report “Children and Armed Conflict” on cases of murder, use and recruitment of children in armed conflict

Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict is a global network of local, national, and international non-governmental organizations devoted to the promotion of information about violations against children in armed conflict, to urge decision makers to implement programs for the protection of children and to call upon the warring parties to uphold the principles of international humanitarian law. The report "Children and Armed Conflict" focuses on crimes such as murder, exploitation, recruitment and mutilation suffered by children during armed conflict. In particular, the report focuses on violence perpetrated in three countries, Somalia, Sudan and Myanmar, with the aim of recommending measures to the Security Council of the United Nation (UN) to ensure the protection of children in these contexts

Regarding Somalia, the report lists the Somali Federal Defence and Police Forces, the paramilitary group Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama’a, and the Al Shabaab terrorist group as accountable for the recruitment, exploitation, killing and maiming of children in conflict. From November 2020, the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) has reported 945 grave violations affecting 1.254 children, in addition to 11 attacks on schools, one attack to a hospital, 66 cases of sexual violence against children, includingf two boys and 64 girls. The CTFMR is a task force set up within the framework of the United Nations and co-chaired by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) with the purpose of implementing the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) adopted by the UN Security Council in 2005. The purpose of the Task Force is to collect information on the ground, monitor and report violations against children in armed conflict so as to prevent future abuses and assist children who were already victims of violence. 

In December 2020, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2559 for the withdrawal of the United Nations – African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) despite the ongoing violence in the region, located in the western part of the country. As reported by Watchlist, in January 2021, the region registered 250 killings, including 10 children and three humanitarian workers, while  300 civilians were injured, seven of which were children. In Myanmar, according to the UN Secretary General’ sixth report on children and armed conflict, the CTFMR has verified 994 grave violations against 974 children occurred between September 2018 and June 2020. According to the Task Force, 78% of these violations took place in the Rakhine State, located in the western part of the country. As violence intensified since the end of 2019 due to the escalation of clashes between the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar Armed Forces, and the non-State armed groups, a spike in violence against children has been reported. During this period, indeed, the Tatmadaw has recruited 587 children, a large increase when compared to the 205 cases of recruitment in 2019. Additionally, the CTFMR has reported 20 attacks on schools and hospitals, 12 of which were attributed to the Tatmadaw. 

After analyzing the cases of violence in each of the afore-mentioned countries, in conclusion to the report Watchlist drafted several recommendations to the UN Security Council in order to safeguard the wellbeing of children during armed conflicts. The organization has urged the Security Council to express concern over the increasing trend of killing, rape, maiming and other forms of sexual violence against children; to urge all parties fighting in these conflicts to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law; to call on the  governments of each country to end all military use of schools and to implement effective procedures for holding the perpetrators of violations accountable for their actions. Finally, the organization called on the Security Council to urge the governments of Somalia, Sudan, and Myanmar to sign and implement a joint UN action plan for the prevention of violence against children, in addition to the adoption of response and protection services for children affected by armed conflict.  


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Author: Carla Leonetti; Editor: Francesca Mencuccini

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