Number of distressed kids in Philippines alarms group
MANILA, Philippines — The Save the Children organization expressed concern on Saturday on the situation of children in Mindanao as it continues to record an increasing number of deaths, injuries, abductions, and sexual violence.
The statement of Save the Children was issued as it called on the Philippine government to have a stronger protection of children in war-affected areas.
According to lawyer Albert Muyot, chief executive officer of the organization in the Philippines, war and armed conflict greatly affect the future of children and these incidents end their childhood.
“The impact of conflict on children is deep, devastating and lifelong. Children have fragile bodies and minds making them vulnerable to the harm done by armed conflict,” Muyot said.
“The psychological effects and severe emotional distress can last beyond the end of the conflict,” he added.
Based on the “Save the War on Children” report of the group, at least 160,000 children were affected by the Marawi siege in 2017, when government forces clashed for months with members of the Maute group.
During the said year, at least 30 children were recruited and were used as “human shield” by armed groups such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, New People’s Army and the Maute Group.
An undetermined number of children were also killed and injured during the five-month long battle, while three cases of rape against children aged as young as 14 by the Maute Group was verified by the United Nations.
The killing and maiming of 33 children were also reported while there were 60 recorded attacks on schools, educational personnel and health care facilities during the Marawi siege.
The same report noted that at least 62,000 students also missed their schooling after 24 out of the 96 barangays in Marawi City were devastated by the attacks.
“Schools and health centers must be treated as zones of peace and protection and every child is protected from rape and sexual violence,” Muyot said.
Globally, Save the Children organization stated in its report that at least 100,000 babies die every year due to armed conflict.
It also identified the “ten worst countries to be a child” for being under a state of war, namely: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Deaths of children below five years old due to war also reached 870,000 from 2013 to 2017, five times more than the 175,000 adult fighters who died during the same period.
These children die from the indirect effects of war such as hunger and malnutrition, destruction of homes, hospitals and the lack of access to health care and sanitation.
Report further revealed that 420 million children, or 1 in 5 around the world, now live in conflicted areas. This, according to the group, is an increase of 30 million from 2016.
“Everyday, children face the threat of being killed or maimed, recruited by armed groups, abducted, falling victim to sexual violence, seeing their school attacked or humanitarian aid denied. In many cases, children are specifically targeted,” the report said. /jpv
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.