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UN: Massive rise in child abductions, rape in conflict areas

A new UN report says there has been a drastic increase in child abduction, rape and other forms of sexual violence in various crisis regions in the year 2020.

Child soldiers recruited by Al Shabab in Somalia walk in a line holding rifles

More than 8,500 children were used as soldiers in conflicts, according to the UN

The number of children abducted and raped in conflict regions saw a major spike in 2020, according to a report released by the United Nations on Monday. 

UN chief Antonio Guterres' annual report to the Security Council on children and armed conflict looks into the killing, maiming and sexual abuse of children, recruitment or abduction, as well as attacks on schools and hospitals.

"The violations of greatest exponential growth in 2020 were abduction, by a staggering 90%, and rape and other forms of sexual violence which rose by 70%," the office of the UN special representative for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, said. 

The report documented violence against 19,379 children in 21 conflicts. 

A total of 8,521 children were used as soldiers in various conflict zones last year, while 2,674 children were killed and 5,748 injured, the report said.

Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen accounted for the most violations committed against children from January to December 2020. 

The report also incorporates a blacklist aimed at shaming parties to conflict in a bid to pressure them into enforcing child protection measures.

Human Rights Watch criticized the UN office for not including Israel and Saudi Arabia on the blacklist for their actions against children, although the alleged crimes were documented in the report itself.

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While Israel has never been on the list, a Saudi-led military coalition was dropped from it in 2020, years after it was first named and shamed for allegedly killing and injuring children in Yemen.

Diplomats have said in the past that both Saudi Arabia and Israel have applied pressure in an attempt to stay off the blacklist. 

The only state parties named in the latest list for violations against children are Myanmar's military and the Syrian government forces. 

dvv/nm (dpa, Reuters)