UK letting down children recruited, raped, abducted and killed in war

Residents flee with their belongings after clashes between forces loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo and those supporting Ivory Coast's new President Alassane Ouattara in Cocody, Abidjan April 13, 2011. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon (Reuters)

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain has failed to address the plight of millions of children who are caught up in war, and lacks "a tangible, or indeed any kind of strategy" to help them, a parliamentary report said. "We have seen a record number of children displaced, deliberately targeted, recruited into armed forces and groups, and become victim to horrific acts of violence and abuse," said Fiona O'Donnell, chair of the all party parliamentary group on protecting children in armed conflicts. "...Children have been let down. Not enough has been done to protect them," O'Donnell said in a foreword to a report published on Monday by the group of lawmakers. Up to 230 million children live in countries affected by armed conflicts with 20 million children forced from their homes because of fighting, the report said. In the last decade, more than two million children have been killed in conflict and millions more have suffered serious wounds or permanent disability as a result of fighting. Yet between 2007 and 2012 only 0.6 percent of the $24 billion in U.N. funds raised for emergency responses was spent on child protection, the report said. Criticizing successive British governments for failing to address the problem, the report said the government had no strategic approach to children affected by armed conflict and does not coordinate its efforts. The report was based on evidence given by child rights groups, the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign Office. Rob Williams, head of War Child UK, said the evidence suggested that protecting children in war zones was a low priority for the government in emergency responses. "DFID does not even count how much of our overseas aid budget is spent on keeping them safe from rape and recruitment into armed forces, or making sure that they can learn to at least read and write," Williams said in a statement. "The result is that even in the relative stability of refugee camps in Jordan, less than half of Syrian refugee children get an hour or two of schooling per day. The failure to protect and educate children fleeing conflict undermines the value of the rest of our aid efforts." Highlighting the ordeal of children in conflict, the report said up to 10,000 children in Central African Republic were recruited by armed groups last year. It noted that in Ivory Coast, children accounted for more than half of all cases of sexual violence perpetrated in the country's 2010-2011 post-election violence. In Iraq, children have been subjected to abduction, physical and sexual assaults. There have also been reports of children being beheaded, crucified and buried alive, the report said. (Writing by Katie Nguyen; Editing by Ros Russell)