2019 concludes a ‘deadly decade’ for children in conflict, with more than 170,000 grave violations verified since 2010

30th December 2019

Three-fold rise in verified attacks on children since 2010, an average of 45 violations a day

DUBLIN/NEW YORK, 30 December 2019 – Children continue to pay a deadly price as conflicts rage around the world, UNICEF said today. Since the start of the decade, the United Nations has verified more than 170,000 grave violations against children in conflict – the equivalent of more than 45 violations every day for the last 10 years.

The number of countries experiencing conflict is the highest it has been since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, with dozens of violent armed conflicts killing and maiming children and forcing them from their homes.

“Conflicts around the world are lasting longer, causing more bloodshed and claiming more young lives,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Attacks on children continue unabated as warring parties flout one of the most basic rules of war: the protection of children. For every act of violence against children that creates headlines and cries of outrage, there are many more that go unreported.”

Grave violations

In 2018, the UN verified more than 24,000 grave violations against children, including killing, maiming, sexual violence, abductions, denial of humanitarian access, child recruitment and attacks on schools and hospitals. While monitoring and reporting efforts have been strengthened, this number is more than two-and-a-half times higher than that recorded in 2010.

More than 12,000 children were killed or maimed in 2018. Continued, widespread use of airstrikes and explosive weapons such as landmines, mortars, improvised explosive devices, rocket attacks, cluster munitions and artillery shelling cause the vast majority of child casualties in armed conflict.

a girl is sitting in an UNICEF tent holding an UNICEF backpack
Kayenat, 12, feels happy to be holding a bookbag while sitting outside her school classroom as she poses for a portrait at the UNICEF-supported Zangora Community Based Education (CBE) cluster, Surkhrod district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, 10 April 2019. “Our school was burnt and destroyed. We, girls, were not allowed to go to school. Because of restrictions on our education imposed by fighting groups in Shinwar, my father decided to leave our hometown and move to Jalalabad,” says Kayenat, who is committed to pursuing her education, despite the obstacles. Though she and her parents were scared, they found the Zangora CBE cluster, the closest place she could enroll. More than 1,771 students and 47 teachers, including 18 female teachers, from different districts of Nangarhar and Kunar Provinces, take the risk everyday to participate in this CBE cluster, which also provides education opportunities to many internally displaced students and returnees.

No reprieve

Attacks and violence against children have not let up throughout 2019. During the first half of the year, the UN has verified over 10,000 such violations against children – although actual numbers are likely to be much higher.

International law

UNICEF calls on all warring parties to abide by their obligations under international law and to immediately end violations against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and water infrastructure. UNICEF also calls on states with influence over parties to conflict to use that influence to protect children.

Across all these countries, UNICEF works with partners to provide the most vulnerable children with health, nutrition, education and child protection services.


Notes to editors:

The six grave violations are: Killing and maiming of children; Recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups; Sexual violence against children; Attacks against schools or hospitals; Abduction of children; and denial of humanitarian access for children.

Multimedia materials available here: https://weshare.unicef.org/Package/2AMZIFI7QW8B

Find out more about UNICEF’s work for children in conflict here: uni.cf/childrenunderattack


UNICEF works in the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit our website.

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