Protecting children's rights in conflicts and crisis in Africa

Wednesday 15 June 2016

With forty per cent of Africans aged 14 or younger, Africa is officially the fastest growing continent in the world.  Sadly, it is also the most conflict-prone region with three out of 10 African children living in fragile, conflict-affected regions or countries, and an estimated 12 million children internally displaced throughout the continent.

In South Sudan alone, 750,000 children were internally displaced, 320,000 registered as child refugees, hundreds were killed, and more than 12,000 recruited and used by the government and opposition forces as child soldiers in armed conflict during 2014.

The trauma associated with witnessing acts of violence can have lifelong consequences, especially in the prevailing absence of psychological care. Family separation is rife which only exacerbates rights violations for children concerned,” says David Wright, Save the Children’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa

The theme of this year’s ‘Day of the African Child’, marked every June 16, is Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting all children’s rights, with the plight of African children in conflict situations characterised by six grave child rights violations: recruitment into armed forces; killing and maiming; sexual and gender-based violence; attacks against schools or hospitals; abduction; and denial of humanitarian access.

Despite strong international, regional, and domestic legal frameworks protecting children during armed conflicts, a recent study by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) found that there is inadequate political commitment to effectively protect children from conflict and crises.  It also noted weaknesses in existing laws and implementation of them, as well as the non-ratification of international laws in some instance.

“Inter-governmental bodies should invest in early warning systems and put in place measures to safeguard child–focused resources and expenditure in times of crisis, including through regional cooperation,” says Wright.

“The disruption of education through attacks on schools and the use of schools for military purposes require urgent attention to ensure that the outlook changes from a generation at risk to a generation of children empowered to contribute to the peaceful development and rebuilding of communities in East and Southern Africa region.”

An estimated 12.6 million primary-school aged children are out of school in conflict affected states in Sub-Saharan Africa, with South Sudan home to the highest proportion of out-of-school children in the world (51% of primary and lower secondary school aged children). 

Save the Children calls on regional human rights bodies, African governments, regional economic communities, and the international community to urgently elevate the Child Protection Agenda for children affected by conflict situations and to prioritise the protection of life and wellbeing of African children, specifically:

1. African Union to increase the realisation of Agenda 2063 that envisions a peaceful and prosperous continent.
2. Regional Economic Communities to increase the collaboration amongst Member States and other AU human rights’ frameworks to help strengthen preventative and responsive action towards conflict, and to condemn and prosecute sexual and gender based violence, irrespective of the perpetrators. This also necessitates strengthening case referral mechanisms and creating awareness of their existence.
3. African Governments to enforce inclusive social and protective systems that respond to every child’s needs, whether in war or in peace. Emergency preparedness and resourcing for child-focused expenditure must be a priority. We also ask that governments honour reporting commitments to the ACERWC.


Notes to editors

For further information, please contact Elizabeth Muiruri (email:, tel: +254722952186) or Anthony Njoroge (email:

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