Statement by Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, on the occasion of the Day of the African Child

June 16, 2018

“This year, the Day of the African Child is held under the theme “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development”. While sustained growth in great parts of the continent has led to sizable advances for children, the boys and girls growing up in countries affected by armed conflict continue to lag behind.

On the agenda I represent, there are eight situations located in Africa: The Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.
In each of these countries, children make up the majority of the population. They are not only the most vulnerable, they have been left the furthest behind.

Our common efforts to protect them are challenged by situations of violence in armed conflict. Every year thousands of children are killed, maimed, recruited and used as child soldiers, abducted, fall victims of sexual violence and are often denied access to humanitarian assistance. Their basic and fundamental rights to education and health are threatened by attacks on schools and hospitals.

Children and youth hold the keys to building the strong, peaceful societies we have envisioned as part of the 2030 development agenda. This is why I am convinced that to fully realize the potential of the SDGs, we have to truly work together to leave no child affected by conflict behind.

The development agenda places a great emphasis on peace, justice and strong institutions. Ensuring quality education and health services, ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and stopping all forms of violence against children are clearly defined goals the international community is working together to achieve.

Providing children affected by conflict the best possible opportunities to reclaim and rebuild their lives following experiences of recruitment and use, sexual violence or other trauma is equally important. I am convinced that sustainable, long-term, community-based reintegration and adequate services for victims and survivors are crucial to help countries rebuild.  Ensuring the availability of educational or vocational opportunities is just as essential to help children, and their communities, move away from conflict and on the path to peace.

I also strongly believe that we can do more on the prevention side to put an end to endless cycles of conflict that affect the lives of too many African children. I urge African Member States, regional organizations and civil society to also engage in support of this lofty goal. Preventing violations against children in armed conflict will greatly contribute to building and sustaining peace.

As we mark the Day of the African Child, let us use the progress already accomplished to guide us towards more achievements for children.

Every African child deserves the chance to develop to its full potential. The burden lies on all of us to harness the potential of the SDGs and to ensure they have the opportunity to do so.


For additional information, please contact:

Fabienne Vinet/ Stephanie Tremblay, Communications Officers
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General
for Children and Armed Conflict
+1-212-963-8285 (office)
+1-917-288-5791 (mobile) /

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