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So the world can’t protect kids anymore?

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PHOTO: The Atlantic

It is a tragedy that despite advancement in science and technology in this age, available evidence suggests that globally, children are being denied needed care as world leaders have reportedly failed to protect vulnerable children, especially in war and conflict zones.

No doubt, most world leaders appear to have descended to extent that their leadership bank accounts have been in deficit of treating their vulnerable future leaders, children well. It is very sad!

According to United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Director of Emergency Programmes, Manuel Fontaine, children living in countries at war have come under direct attack. He alleged that the world had failed to protect children in conflict as widespread violations against kids in conflict continued unabated in 2018.

He stated that children have been used as human shields, killed, maimed or recruited to fight. He further asserted that rape, forced marriage and abduction have become standard tactics in conflicts from Syria to Yemen, and from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Nigeria, South Sudan and Myanmar.

Others negative impacts of the insurgency on children are violence, malnutrition, hunger and disease, displacement, homelessness, the absence of schooling – including poor or lack of access to food, water, sanitation and health services. Therefore, whenever there is a conflict, the most vulnerable social groups are children, who experience multiple horrific atrocities and catastrophes that can be characterised as traumatic and appalling. As such, the future of millions of children living in countries affected by armed conflict are in jeopardy as world leaders fail to hold perpetrators of violence against the young citizens accountable.

Fontaine said that in the Lake Chad basin, on-going conflict, displacement and attacks on schools, teachers and other education facilities had put the education of 3.5 million children at risk. “Today in northeast Nigeria, the Lake region of Chad, extreme north of Cameroon and Diffa region of Niger, at least 1,041 schools are closed or non-functional due to violence, fear of attacks, or unrest, affecting nearly 445,000 children.”

Specifically on Nigeria, he observed that in 2018, northeast Nigeria, armed groups, including Boko Haram factions, continued to target girls, who are raped, forced to become wives of fighters or used as ‘human bombs’. “In February, the group abducted 110 girls and one boy from a technical college in Dapchi, Yobe State. While most of the children have since been released, five girls died and one is still being held captive as a slave.’’ These pains of children in conflict and war show that most leaders in the world do not show commitment to the universality of humanity; and that human rights, particularly children’s right are threatened. Indeed, things are falling apart; and the world is bleeding towards the cremation of human beings’ right to existence.

So, it is obvious that while 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, children living through conflict are among the least likely to be guaranteed their rights. Essentially, the future of millions of children living in countries affected by armed conflict are in jeopardy as world leaders fail to hold perpetrators of violence against the young citizens accountable.

This neglect of children in conflict zones goes against every moral precept, law and principle. It makes a brutal mockery of that eternal idea that through the eyes of a child the world is seen as it should be. It is unforgivable that children are assaulted, violated, murdered and yet the nation’s conscience is not pricked and its sense of dignity is not challenged. If ‘change’ would come to Nigeria for the better, and if Nigeria is to ‘move to the next level’ there is no greater cause than the protection of children in conflict zones.

Therefore, if Nigeria can improve the lives and future of children, then the nation can transform for the better The reason for this is simple: Today’s children will one day be making the decisions that will shape the country – their families, communities, work places and government at all levels. This is against the backdrop that the perspectives, experiences, beliefs, knowledge, skills and attitudes that will determine how they carry out those tasks have their roots in childhood. It is, therefore, both a moral and strategic need for the Nigerian state to protect children from the horrors of conflicts.

Collectively, every Nigerian can contribute to the upliftment of the Nigerian child by working to de-escalate violent conflicts to which they are vulnerable. Good governance, justice and fair play will reduce conflicts in the country. On the part of citizens, they should guard their words and avoid hate speeches, manage anger, develop a culture of tolerance and embrace national cohesion. Communities should have home-grown ways of protecting children during conflicts. The media and civil society organisations should campaign against conflict, create awareness on the rule of engagements during wars and sensitize stakeholders to the local and international laws protecting children from hostilities.

At the international level, the world in 2015 agreed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals – a global agenda that has, ending all forms of violence against children as a goal. The Declaration on the Rights of the Child, says that, “mankind owes to the child the best it has to offer” and Articles 38 and 39 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, recognise that children require special considerations stating that parties should take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by conflicts. Thus, the international community should push for stronger accountability in crimes committed against children in conflict zones and the International Criminal Court (ICC), is one of the weapons it can latch on to end this impunity. Finally, in countries experiencing conflicts, all parties should abide by the rules of engagements contained in international laws to end violence against children.

On the whole, attacks on children must end. The time has come for the world to come together as one to protect children who are the future.


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Boko HaramLake ChadUNICEF
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