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West, Central Africa has highest number of child soldiers -UNICEF

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A report released on Wednesday by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has indicated that more than 21,000 child soldiers have been recruited by government forces and armed groups in conflict-ridden parts of West and Central Africa, which ranks the region highest in child soldier numbers.

The report added that apart from the high number of child soldiers in the region, there has been rampant and widespread cases of underage victims of sexual violence.

“Since 2016, the region has been hit by growing conflict in which more than 21,000 children have been recruited by government forces and armed groups,” the report endorsed by Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, noted.

“In addition, more than 2,200 children have been verified as victims of sexual violence during the past five years.

“Some 3,500 children have been abducted, making it the region with the second-highest abductions in the world, while there have been at least 1,500 attacks on schools and hospitals.

“Overall, more than 57 million children in the region are in need of humanitarian assistance, a number that has doubled since last year as a result of conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Whether children in West and Central Africa are the direct targets or collateral victims, they are caught up in conflict and face violence and insecurity.

“The grave violations of their rights perpetrated by parties to the conflicts are unacceptable. They have an adverse impact on their capacity to learn, work, build meaningful relationships and contribute to the development of their communities and countries.

“In conflict-affected countries such as Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Nigeria, violence has had devastating humanitarian consequences for children and communities, and the pandemic has exacerbated the situation,” the report added.

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