Armed conflict killed 870,000 young children over five years, report

Saleh*, 12, was badly burned after he was hit by a mortar bomb in his home in Yemen. Source: Save the Children

At least 100,000 babies die every year because of factors including hunger, damaged hospitals and lack of aid, says Save the Children.

About 870,000 children under five may have died within five years as a result of armed conflict in the worst-affected countries, a new report finds.

According to the ‘Stop War on Children’ report from Save the Children, the number is five times more than the 174,703 fighters estimated to have been killed in the same period between 2013 and 2017.

"Almost one in five children are living in areas impacted by conflict, more than at any time in the past two decades," said the charity's chief executive Helle Thorning-Schmidt. "It is shocking that in the 21st century we are going backwards on principles and moral standards that are so simple. Children and civilians should never be targeted."

The 10 worst-hit countries

The worst conflict affected countries were Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

In the period between 2013 and 2017, a conservative estimate of 550,000 babies died as a result of fighting in the 10 countries. According to Save the Children, at least 100,000 babies die every year because of armed conflict.

About 350 million children living in conflict areas around world

The total number of deaths in the time period jumped to 870,000 when all children under the age of five were included. According to Save the Children, contributing factors include hunger, damage to hospitals and infrastructure and the denial of aid.

According to the NGO, children also face the threat of being killed or maimed, recruited by armed groups, abducted or falling victim to sexual violence.

Number of children maimed or killed triples

"The number of children being killed or maimed has more than tripled, and we are seeing an alarming increase in the use of aid as a weapon of war," Ms Thorning-Schmidt told the Munich Security Conference on the report’s release.

The report also found that since 2010, there has been a 37 per cent rise in the number of children living in conflict zones and a 174 per cent increase in the number of verified incidents of grave violations against children.

Injured boy from Iraq
Hassoumi, from Iraq, Hassouni*, 9, was critically injured by shrapnel.
Save the Children

A previous study Save the Children commissioned from the Peace Research Institute Oslo found that 420 million children were living in conflict-affected areas in 2017. This represents 18 per cent of all children worldwide and was up by 30 million from 2016.

Calls for Australia to halt defence exports

Save the Children is calling on the Australian Government to be more transparent regarding its military exports to parties to the Yemen conflict such as Saudi Arabia, who have been accused of committing serious violations of international human rights and law against civilians.

The NGO wants Australia to immediately stop the issuing of defence export licenses to Saudi Arabia and other parties to the conflict, and to reconsider those that have already been approved.

“It is unacceptable to think that Australian businesses could be helping continue the conflict. The supply of weapons, from some of the richest countries in the world, has helped fuel a war that has seen children suffer in horrifying numbers,” said Save the Children Australia chief executive Paul Ronalds.

“It is critical for Australia to take stronger measures to demonstrate its opposition to these alleged violations of international law.”


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