The UN office working on behalf of children caught up in armed conflicts has launched a guidance note to strengthen the monitoring and report on the abduction of children.
It also provides tools to address the increasing problem, said the report published by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict on Monday.
“The abduction of children in situations of armed conflict is one of the most difficult to document,” said Virginia Gamba, Head of the office, in her preface to the 50-page note.
She added that abducted children often disappear for months, “sometimes years, and the experiences they go through while held in captivity often have long-term negative effects in their lives.”
Some of the children, once released or once they manage to escape, face significant challenges in being reintegrated into their communities, she said.
The problem needs to be addressed by the UN and its partners so that children can benefit from long-term and tailored reintegration programmes, Xinhua news agency reported.
“Abducted children, and especially girls, are often targeted on their way to or while at school,” the special representative added.
“Children can be abducted for a wide variety of exploitative purposes, including but not limited to recruitment and use, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and ransom, among others.”
Gamba said the number of verified incidents of abduction in 2020 increased by 90 per cent and had a sustained increase in 2021 of 20 per cent.
“There is an urgent need to ensure that all those working on monitoring, reporting, and advocating are equipped with strong tools to end and prevent the abduction of children.”
“This guidance note on abduction aims at responding to this urgently pressing need,” the special representative added.
The note is designed to further the implementation of the 2015 Security Council resolution formally recognising the importance of holding parties accountable for abducting children, Gamba said.
It was drafted in cooperation with the UN Children’s Fund, the UN Department of Peacebuilding and Political Affairs and the Department of Peace Operations in consultation with other UN entities, including the UN Office of Legal Affairs, and others involved in the protection of children.
Among the countries and regions presenting the highest numbers of children abducted in 2020 and 2021 identified in the note are Somalia, Congo, Syria, Burkina Faso, and the Lake Chad basin region. Boys were primarily affected but girls were increasingly targeted at an alarming rate.