The more than 27,000 assaults on children verified by the UN in the past year include killing, maiming or recruiting children, among other illicit activities. The number of attacks on schools and hospitals increased by 112%

The number of violations against children caught up in conflict is steadily increasing

UNICEF/Diego Ibarra Sánchez - Una niña camina entre los escombros del patio de una escuela destruida por los bombardeos en Chernihiv, Ucrania
UNICEF/Diego Ibarra Sánchez - Una niña camina entre los escombros del patio de una escuela destruida por los bombardeos en Chernihiv, Ucrania

The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, released the Secretary-General's latest annual report for 2022, which shows that there were 27,180 grave violations in total, more than the previous year. 

The recorded violations refer only to verified information, with the number likely to be much higher, and cover four categories: recruitment and use of children in armed groups or armed forces, killing and maiming, rape and sexual violence, and abductions. 

Two-thirds of the violations involved children, covering 24 different conflict situations. A total of 8,831 children were killed or maimed, and another 7,622 were recruited by armed groups or forces.

UNICEF/Jospin Benekire - Un enfant mange de la nourriture dans un camp de personnes déplacées dans la province du Nord-Kivu, suite aux combats dans l'est de la République démocratique du Congo
UNICEF/Jospin Benekire - A child eats food in a camp for displaced people in North Kivu province following fighting in eastern DR Congo

Deterioration in Myanmar, South Sudan and Burkina Faso 

Ms Gamba told reporters at a press conference in New York that the countries with the highest number of violations were the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Israel, the State of Palestine, Somalia, Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Yemen. 

"Monitoring and verification of grave violations remained extremely challenging, including due to access restrictions that led to underreporting of these violations and an increase in verified violations in 2022," the report says. 

The countries where "the worst deterioration" has occurred are Myanmar, South Sudan and Burkina Faso. 

Schools and hospitals 

There were 1,163 attacks on schools and 647 attacks on hospitals, an increase of 112 percent, according to the report. 

The widespread use of schools for military purposes by both armed forces and armed groups is a "very worrying trend," said Ms Gamba, who called for them to remain "zones of peace". 

Some 2,500 children have been detained, a practice that "should only be used as a last resort and for the shortest possible time," she added. 

Russia adds to list of offenders 

Ms Gamba said Russian forces and affiliated armed groups in Ukraine were added to the report's annex as notable culprits, for the number of attacks on hospitals and schools carried out during the invasion and the killing of children during military operations. 

Russia's use of rocket systems, air strikes and shelling of populated areas resulted in "very high casualties", she said, adding that they would continue their talks with Moscow to introduce measures to reduce attacks. 

She said the Ukrainian Armed Forces also received a warning from the UN Secretary-General through the report because of attacks on schools and hospitals during the war. Emphasising that even defensive responses must comply with international humanitarian law, she welcomed the progress made by the Ukrainian government in making improvements. 

Israel and Palestine not added to list of culprits 

The Special Representative said Israel and the State of Palestine would not be added to the global list of culprits, and stressed that the warning not to repeat the May 2021 urban assault on Gaza and retaliatory missile attacks had been sufficiently heeded. 

He said there was a "significant decrease" in Israeli air strikes in 2022, and noted that the purpose of publishing the report and highlighting the violence was to change attitudes and increase protection. 

However, he expressed concern about the continued high level of violence in the West Bank and other occupied territories so far this year. 

Among those added to the list of culprits were armed groups in the DRC, including M23, Mai-Mai Zaire and CODECO. Two non-state actors in Burkina Faso were also added. 

Ms. Gamba also noted the addition of military leaders in Myanmar, who were listed for attacks on schools and hospitals. 

In addition, she said that two situations, in Haiti and Niger, are of growing concern to her office.