As we today mark Holy Innocents Day, when Judea’s wicked King Herod slaughtered Bethlehem’s infants because he was jealous and feared that the King of Kings had been born there, we need to reflect on the plight of hundreds of millions of children today affected by war, violence, famine, homelessness, child abuse and other crimes. Religious leaders have told us that anyone who causes harm to a child should be thrown into the deepest ocean with a millstone tied around his or her neck.
These crimes against children are continuing though the United Nations on November 20 marked Universal Children’s Day to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide and improving children’s welfare. Since 1990, World Children’s Day also marks the anniversary of the date on which the UN General Assembly adopted both the Declaration and Convention on children’s rights.
Parents, teachers, nurses and doctors, government leaders and civil society activists, religious and community elders, media professionals, young people and children themselves, can play an important part in making World Children’s Day relevant for their societies, communities and nations. World Children’s Day offers each of us an inspirational entry-point to advocate, promote and celebrate children’s rights, translating into dialogues and actions that will build a better world for children. This year is extra special, marking the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is a time to celebrate and a time to demand action for child rights.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in its latest report shows the world the horror of horrors that have been going on in Syria for the past ten years. It says half of Syria’s children, about four million, have grown up only knowing a life of violence, as the war-battered country enters its tenth year of conflict.
Four million children have been born in Syria since the conflict started. War damage has left at least 500 of the area’s schools in need of repair and children are missing out on their education. UNICEF says that first-grade students can vary in age from six to 17 years old and close to a third of students are dropping out of school nationwide.
UNICEF underscores that reaching children, wherever they are, and assisting their immediate and future needs, remains a priority. With access improving, UNICEF is scaling up its health, nutrition, and child protection support services. This includes aid to schools, implementation of learning programmes to get students who have missed years of education up to speed, teacher training, and sewerage and water pipeline repair. The children’s agency calls for the protection of Syrian children at all times and has renewed its call for unconditional access to hard-to-reach areas.
The UN in one of its latest reports says tens of thousands of children are killed, abused and deprived of their liberty during the many violent conflicts raging around the world. Conflict situations represent the worst kind of violations of children’s rights. Minors are exposed to “unimaginable” violence and deprived of liberty. More than 24,000 violations were verified in 2018 in the world’s 20 conflict situations.
Recruitment continues unabated with more than 7,000 children drawn into the frontlines of battle. Sexual violence against children remains under-reported — due to lack of access, stigma and fear of reprisals — while nearly 2,500 children were verified as abducted.
And every year, at least one billion children suffer some form of abuse. Peer-to-peer aggression is also on the rise, with fights, bullying and gang-related behaviour affecting millions of young people and their families, schools and communities.
It is our common responsibility to find durable and just solutions for all girls and boys affected by war. It is also about the results demanded by those rights. As its thirtieth anniversary is celebrated, now is the time to summon the political will and investments needed to reach every child with the support he or she needs.
In Sri Lanka, the National Child Protection Authority says acts of cruelty against children have escalated recently. (NCPA) Chairperson notes that more than 60% of the complaints it receives are related to child cruelty. The authority has already received more than 10,000 complaints this year, about 1.500 complaints monthly. A draft Child Protection and Justice Bill, an act to lay down the national policy on the Juvenile Justice System, to provide for the effective care and protection of the children including Probation and other Child Care Services is in preparation and we hope it will be implemented soon.