UNICEF: Children in Yemen Forced Into Marriage, Labor and Conflict

June 18, 2014 – Attacks against schools and hospitals are among the grave violations committed against children in Yemen, according to the UN Children’s Agency in its 2014 report on the Arab world’s poorest country.

“One particular form of such grave acts is the forced marriage of girls, which is reported to have affected up to 100 girls in Abyan alone during 2012, involving leaders or members of Ansar Al-Sharia,” says the report, which was released on Tuesday. Ansar Al-Sharia is another name given to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The UN team in Yemen verified cases of girls as young as 13 being forced into marriage and a case of two girls offered as ‘gifts’ by their brothers who had been allowed to join armed groups. It says the majority of girls forced into marriage soon become pregnant.

“In all of the verified cases the girls reported being abandoned along with their children when their husbands fled from Abyan as government forces regained control.”

Recruitment of children by armed groups, including the government, is continuing, the report says, with 69 verified cases of boys between the ages of 10-17 recruited to fight in armed conflict last year.

Yemen also has the highest rate of child labor in the MENA region at 23 percent, double that of the next highest country, Iraq, and also the only MENA country where the proportion of girls in child labor exceeds that of boys.

There were 18 attacks on hospitals and 242 attacks on schools in Yemen last year, the report says. “Attacks on schools are a deliberate targeting of children:  their safety, their right to an education and their essential development.”

More than 100 of the schools were destroyed by shelling while other schools have been occupied by armed groups.

One bright spot appears to be a gain in gender parity in primary education with 8 girls enrolled for every ten boys, but the report cautions that the rate of boys dropping out of school is also increasing “and thus gender parity rates in enrollment may not reflect actual gains for girls education in

The full report is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

More than 50 Groups in Fourteen Countries Recruiting Child Soldiers

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 11, 2014 – Parties in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic are recruiting children as soldiers.

Those three countries are among the 14 where the United Nations says children are enlisted by armed groups. In at least seven of the countries, government forces are among those recruiting, according to the Office of the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, which is calling attention to these violations ahead of the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers on Feb. 12.

In total, there are more than 50 armed groups listed by the UN as recruiters of child soldiers including nine groups in Sudan, among them the country’s national forces; eight groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo; eight in Myanmar and seven in Central African Republic.

Besides Sudan, the other six countries where national forces recruit children are Afghanistan, with the Afghan National Police listed as a recruiter; Chad, whose army currently has peacekeepers in Mali; as well as government forces in Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

In Syria, the Free Syrian Army are listed as a recruiter of child soldiers. While the Syrian government is not listed as recruiting children, its intelligence services and allied Shabbiha militia are listed as perpetrators of grave violations against children including killing and maiming, rape, and attacks against schools and hospitals.

The fourteen countries where children are recruited by armed groups are:

1. Afghanistan
2. Central African Republic
3. Chad
4. Colombia
5. Democratic Republic of the Congo
6. Iraq
7. Mali
8. Myanmar
9. Philippines
10. Somalia
11. South Sudan
12. Sudan
13. Syria
14. Yemen

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image: Wikimedia/Gilbert G. Giroud