LONDON, 14 December 2023 The number of grave violations committed against children in times of war rose 13% in 2022, to the highest level since reporting started in 2005, according to new analysis by Save the Children, with numbers of abuse in 2023 expected to rise even further.

The report – Stop the War on Children: Let Children live in Peaceshows that 27,638 grave violations were committed against children during conflict in 2022, with the killing and maiming of children having the highest number of reported and verified cases at 8,647.

This was followed by cases of recruitment and use of children in conflict, which increased by 20% to 7,610 in 2022.

These violations represent the worst crimes that can be committed against children in conflict, including killing, maiming, abduction and sexual violence to recruitment into armed groups and strikes on schools and hospitals.  These violations are also known to only represent a small fraction of the total number of cases, as some abuses are never reported, while others committed in 2022 are still being verified.

To better show the prevalence of these violations against children, both by location, type and date, Save the Children has also today launched a new website which makes combined data on these trends publicly available for the first time.

Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children International, said while these trends were devastating, the number of violations against children is expected to be even higher in 2023 due to the conflict in Sudan, which is now the world’s worst displacement crisis for children, and the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza: 

“It’s a terrible time to be a child in war. The global norms that were set up to protect children and their rights are crumbling. The trends are all in the wrong direction – violations against children increasing year after year. In 2022 the data shows that there were 76 violations against children on average per day, although due to under-reporting we know this is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg. 

“While the data of this report is for 2022, we expect 2023 to be no better – indeed, we may reach new lows. The humanitarian crisis in Sudan – the worst displacement crisis on earth for children – has seen killing, horrific sexual violence, torture and maiming of children on a scale not witnessed for a generation.  

“We have also seen children bearing the brunt of the conflict in Gaza, where over a million young lives are on the line.  We are seeing hospitals become battlegrounds, and food and water supplies cut off. A definitive ceasefire is needed now, immediately, to stop the suffering in Gaza.” 

Children consulted for the report said that decision-makers must ensure the protection of all children who spend their childhood in areas where there is conflict. Children are calling for protection from bombs, missiles and landmines, and from violence and abuse. They want to feel safe, especially in their own homes and neighbourhoods, with their families and with their friends.

When a rocket falls from the sky, it does not differentiate between a stone and a tree, and between a child and a young person.” – Palestinian children’s council, Gaza

Gudrun Østby, Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo, said:  “The numbers of grave violations are extremely alarming. Especially since these verified cases likely represent only the tip of the iceberg. Any child growing up in conflict settings could be at risk of such violations. Our estimates for 2022 show one in six children were living less than 50 kms away from at least one conflict events. The international community must all its power to pressure warring parties to abide by international law and protect children.”