Save the Children (SC), a non-governmental organisation, has reported that about 170 million children live in conflict zones across Africa. The organisation noted in its report that successive generations of children across the continent have grown up knowing nothing other than conflict, including in the three West and Central African countries that are included in the list of the top ten worst conflict-affected countries to be a child: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali, and Nigeria.

Conflict in these countries has increased the number of out-of-school children. Two million children have no access to education, with over 10,200 schools closed, in Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Cameroon, Central African Republic and Chad. It was noted in the SC report that with these conflicts in these countries, girls are more vulnerable as they are the ones who fall victim to rape and other sexual abuses. According to the report, 87 percent of all verified cases of sexual violence involved girls while 1.5 percent targeted boys. In 11 percent of the cases the sex of the victim was not recorded.

The Regional Head of Advocacy, Campaign for West and Central Africa at Save the Children, Vishna Shah, said, ‘[I]n times of crisis, children are more vulnerable to marriage as families turn to coping mechanisms to survive. These young girls who are forced into marriage are instantly robbed of their childhood, many have to drop out of the education system and are locked into a lifestyle where they have limited decision making power and mobility’.

The NGO called on world leaders to play their role in protecting children by putting in place policies and practices that will benefit the children. SC noted that 101 states have endorsed its Safe Schools Declaration, a commitment to keep schools safe during conflicts. 14 of the states are in West and Central Africa including the DRC, Mali, Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso. The organisation also called for an increase in funding aimed at the protection of children.

Source: Premium Times

Photo source: Elis Alves

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