15 October 2019 - Addis Ababa


  • 152 million African children – one in four – live in a conflict zone.
  • One fifth of the world’s children who live in conflict zones are in Africa.
  • More than one third of all conflicts involve sexual violence against children.
  • 19,000 new children recruited to armed groups in South Sudan since December 2013.
  • Nearly 1500 children maimed by armed forces in six African countries in 2018.
  • Some 5 million African children killed by conflict-related disease or hunger in the last 20 years.
  • More than 2000 children kidnapped in Somalia, DRC and Nigeria in 2018.

Children and youth from Ethiopia, Mali, South Sudan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo are today converging in Addis Ababa to demand African decision makers enact changes in their countries to ensure children are safe in times of conflict.

The children and youth are meeting in Addis Ababa from 15 – 17 October as part of the inaugural Pan-African Conference on Children and Armed Conflict, organized by child-rights organisation African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and international NGO Save the Children, with the financial support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

The conference will bring together children and youth alongside delegates from the African Union, government representatives and policy makers, child protection experts, members of academia and civil society, to discuss how international and regional mechanisms can better protect children affected by armed conflict in Africa. The conference is intended to act as both a wakeup call to policy makers in conflict-affected African countries, and as a platform in which to develop a Road Map for action to protect children in situations of conflict.

“The war on Africa’s children persists and it’s getting worse,” said Dr Assefa Bequele, Executive Director of ACPF. “Africa’s leaders are failing to protect their children from the horrors of war. Despite repeated UN Security Council resolutions, international conventions and regional agreements, African children continue to suffer. Progress on protection is deplorably slow, and perpetrators are rarely brought to justice for war crimes and grave violations.”

ACPF’s new report, In the Firing Line: The War on Africa’s Children reveals that hundreds of thousands of children are dying every year as a result of conflict-induced malnutrition, disease and the breakdown of healthcare, water and sanitation.

At least one in four African children lives in a conflict zone and the numbers of ‘grave violations’ against children have almost tripled since 2010, according to Save the Children’s Stop the War on Childrenreport, released in February 2019. 

“We urge the UN, the African Union and warring parties to end the numerous wars on the continent and step-up measures to protect children affected by conflict,” said Helena Thybell, CEO of Save the Children Sweden. “We demand that children caught up in situations of conflict are afforded safety, justice and the practical help they need to recover.”

“African governments must take all necessary measures to end the killing and maiming, abductions, sexual violence, and recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, and they must cease attacks on schools, hospitals and humanitarian operations, as well as ensure that perpetrators of violations against children are held accountable", she added.

Dr Assefa Bequele noted that“The war on Africa’s children, often underreported, is fuelled by food insecurity, climate change, poor governance, absence of the rule of law, corruption, intercommunal tensions and violent extremism. Chronic underdevelopment, civil war, political instability and terrorism have created a perfect storm of child abductions, forced recruitment, rape and trafficking. Child protection in African conflict zones is weak, fragmented and underfunded.

“We hope that the Pan-African Conference on Children and Armed Conflict sends a clear message to the UN, AU, all actors to the conflicts, and to African political leaders. These tragedies are happening on our watch, and we are currently failing to protect children affected by armed conflict."

Fatou*, age 14, from Mali, said:  “Growing up in a conflict zone denies children like me the right to a consistent education, security and a future with hope. I have friends who have lost loved ones, who cannot sleep at night due to the traumatic situations they have been in. I want to tell world leaders that enough is enough.”

(*the name Fatou is a pseudonym)


Notes to Editors:

About Save the Children: 100 years ago, a courageous woman named Eglantyne Jebb founded Save the Children in response to the terrible suffering children were facing as a result of war. Today, Save the Children is a global membership organisation, made up of Save the Children International and 29 national members. We champion the rights and interests of children worldwide, putting the most vulnerable children first. With 25,000 dedicated staff across 120 countries, we respond to major emergencies, deliver innovative development programmes, and ensure children's voices are heard through our campaigning to build a better future for and with children.

About ACPF: African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) is an independent, not-for-profit Pan-African centre of policy research and advocacy centred on the African child. It was established in 2003 out of concern about the situation of the African child and the need for Africans to recognise their responsibility to collectively ensure the realisation of all rights to all children.

More information at http://africanchildforum.org/

About the Pan-African Conference on Children and Armed Conflict: The conference is jointly hosted byAfrican Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and Save the Children, and supported by the AU and UN. It aims to draw attention to and galvanise continental, global and national action to prevent and respond to violations against children in the context of armed conflict. For more information visit cac.africachildforum.org.

Data is analyzed from ACPF Report “In the Firing Line: the War on Africa’s Children” and Save the Children “Stop the War on Children Report”, with original sources below:

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