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UN sees tripling of children killed in conflict in one year

19 June 2024, MVT 13:36
A Palestinian boy sits as people search the rubble of the Harb family home destroyed in overnight Israeli strikes in al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, on June 18, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant Hamas movement. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
19 June 2024, MVT 13:36

Global conflicts killed three times as many children and twice as many women in 2023 than in the previous year, as overall civilian fatalities swelled 72 percent, the UN said Tuesday.

Warring parties were increasingly "pushing beyond boundaries of what is acceptable -- and legal", United Nations rights chief Volker Turk told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

They are showing "utter contempt for the other, trampling human rights at their core", he said. "Killings and injuries of civilians have become a daily occurrence. Destruction of vital infrastructure a daily occurrence".

"Children shot at. Hospitals bombed. Heavy artillery launched on entire communities. All along with hateful, divisive, and dehumanising rhetoric."

The UN rights chief said his office had gathered data indicating that last year, "the number of civilian deaths in armed conflict soared by 72 percent".

"Horrifyingly, the data indicates that the proportion of women killed in 2023 doubled and that of children tripled, compared to the year prior," he said.

In the Gaza Strip, Turk said he was "appalled by the disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law by parties to the conflict" and "unconscionable death and suffering".

Since the war erupted after Hamas's unprecedented attack inside Israel on October 7, he said "more than 120,000 people in Gaza, overwhelmingly women and children, have been killed or injured ... as a result of the intensive Israeli offensives".

"Since Israel escalated its operations into Rafah in early May, almost one million Palestinians have been forcibly displaced yet again, while aid delivery and humanitarian access deteriorated further," he said.

- Dwindling funds -

Turk also pointed to a range of other conflicts, including in Ukraine, the Democratic republic of Congo and Syria.

And in Sudan, in the grips of a more than year-long civil war, he warned the country "is being destroyed in front of our eyes by two warring parties and affiliated groups ... (who have) flagrantly cast aside the rights of their own people".

Such devastation comes as funding to help the growing numbers of people in need is dwindling.

"As of the end of May 2024, the gap between humanitarian funding requirements and available resources stands at $40.8 billion," Turk said.

"Appeals are funded at an average of 16.1 per cent only," he said.

"Contrast this with the almost $2.5 trillion in global military expenditure in 2023, a 6.8 percent increase in real terms from 2022," Turk said, stressing that "this was the steepest year-on-year increase since 2009".

"In addition to inflicting unbearable human suffering, war comes with a hefty price tag," he said.

© Agence France-Presse