Killed, kidnapped, tortured, raped, sold: millions of children suffer in ‘devastating year’

Children in conflicts, Safe schools

Hundreds of children kidnapped. Thousands of children recruited by military or armed groups. Hundreds of thousands of children living as refugees after fleeing from violence. Millions of children living in countries afflicted by wars and conflicts.

And many of them denied an education as a result. This is the world in 2014 – ironically just weeks after the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

Twelve months of such horror and despair that the executive director of the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF today described it as “a devastating year for millions of children”.

Anthony Lake added: “Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds; they have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves. Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable brutality.” He said there were so many conflicts and crises that they failed to capture global headlines.

UNICEF said as many as 15 million children are caught up in violent conflicts in the Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, Palestine, Syria and Ukraine – including those internally displaced or living as refugees. There are an estimated 230 million children living in countries and areas affected by armed conflicts worldwide.

The year 2014 has also seen five million children missing out on school in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone because of the Ebola outbreak.

A Syrian refugee family walk to school in the Za’ataari refugee camp in Jordan Picture: UNICEF/Noorani

In its statement today, UNICEF pointed to the affects on several countries and states:


About 2.3 million children are affected by the conflict, up to 10,000 children are believed to have been recruited by armed groups over the last year and more than 430 children have been killed and maimed – three times as many as in 2013.


The 50-day conflict during the summer left 54,000 children homeless, 538 children killed and more than 3,370 injured.


More than 7.3 million children are affected by the conflict including 1.7 million child refugees. The UN verified at least 35 attacks on schools in the first nine months of the year, which killed 105 children and injured nearly 300 others.


An estimated 2.7 million children are affected by conflict and at least 700 children are believed to have been maimed, killed or even executed this year. In Iraq and Syria, children have been victims of, witnesses to and even perpetrators of increasingly brutal and extreme violence.


About 235,000 children under five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Almost 750,000 children have been displaced and more than 320,000 are living as refugees. According to UN verified data, more than 600 children have been killed and over 200 maimed this year, and around 12,000 children are now being used by armed forces and groups.

UNICEF said there are some areas of hope for children affecte dby conflict and crisis. In the Central African Republic, a campaign is underway to get 662,000 children back to school as the security situation permits. Nearly 68 million doses of the oral polio vaccine were delivered to countries in the Middle East to stem a polio outbreak in Iraq and Syria.

In South Sudan, more than 70,000 children were treated for severe malnutrition. In Ebola-hit countries, work continues to combat the virus in local communities.

A World at School, the Global Coalition for Education and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown are involved in many projects to improve the situation for children around the world. They include the Safe Schools Initiative in Nigeria and a detailed plan to help five million children out of school because of Ebola.

You can let your voice be heard and tell world leaders to get every child into school. Sign the #UpForSchool Petition now.

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