New global target needed to tackle epidemic of violence against children

Every five minutes a child dies as the result of violence – according to a ground-breaking report from Unicef UK. 

In its report “Children in Danger: Act to End Violence against Children” – published to mark the launch of the Children in Danger campaign – the organisation revealed that some 345 children under the age of 20 could die from violence each day in the next year, unless governments act. 

The report reveals that the vast majority of children are killed outside warzones and that physical, sexual and emotional abuse is widespread with millions of children unsafe in their homes, schools and communities. 

It finds that: 

• children who are victims of violence have brain activity similar to soldiers exposed to combat 

• a third of children who are victims of violence are likely to develop long-lasting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

• those living in poverty are more likely to be victims of violence, wherever they live in the world. 

• over 75 percent of child deaths due to violence each day are the result of interpersonal violence, rather than conflict 

• a girl or boy aged between 0-19 dies as a result of violence every five minutes

Baroness Doreen Lawrence, a long term campaigner for justice in the UK, has contributed the foreword to the report and has visited Kenya, where 73 percent of boys have experienced physical violence by the age of 18.  She said:

“This epidemic of violence against children feeds off silence. It grows when we soundlessly accept that this is just the way things are. Every five minutes, somewhere across the globe, a family loses a son or daughter to violence. This is intolerable – it must stop.”   

Just 41 countries have implemented an explicit legal ban on violence against children, while only two percent of countries have a comprehensive legal framework to prevent violence. Unicef UK says more needs to be done to ensure every child is safe. 

Governments are currently negotiating a new set of global development targets, as the current Millennium Development Goals will expire in 2015. Unless there is concerted action to make ending violence against children a global priority, Unicef UK fears this violence could undo gains made in health and education. Unicef UK is calling for a target to end violence, exploitation and abuse of children to be included in the world’s new development agenda. 

The organisation is calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to champion this new global target, building on the UK government’s vital work to prevent early marriage and FGM and tackle sexual violence in conflict. 

David Bull, Executive Director of Unicef UK, said: 

“We live in a world where some children are too scared to walk out of their own front doors or play on their streets.  We want children living in fear to have a chance of feeling safe and secure.  A global target would galvanise action to make the world safer for children. We know from Unicef’s work on the ground that violence can be prevented and survivors supported to rebuild their lives – but this work needs to be rolled out on a wider scale. Each day we delay more children will be exposed to the corrosive impact of violence.”

Unicef UK’s Children in Danger campaign seeks to protect children from violence, disease, hunger and the chaos of war and disaster. The public can support UNICEF UK’s call for a new global target to end violence against children by visiting  

To mark the launch of the campaign, Unicef UK has released a 90 second digital film that tells how children are facing an epidemic of violence. The short film asks the viewer to imagine what it would be like if there was a ‘violence vaccine’ that could protect children and ensure they were safe. 

--ENDS --

Notes to editors:

For more information, please contact the UNICEF UK press office on 020 7375 6030 or

Fast facts on violence 

•Around 120 million girls under the age of 20 (about 1 in 10) have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. 

•Around 6 in 10 children between the ages of 2 and 14 worldwide (almost a billion) are subjected to physical punishment by their caregivers on a regular basis. 

•One in nine girls in developing countries are married by their 15th birthday 

•More than 125 million women have been subjected to female genital mutilation/cutting, most in early childhood and adolescence. 

•The five countries with the worst child murder rates are: El Salvador, Guatemala, Venezuela, Haiti, and Lesotho. Nigeria has the largest number of young homicide victims, with almost 13,000 deaths in 2012, followed by Brazil with approximately 11,000. 


UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  UNICEF UK raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work and advocates for lasting change for children everywhere. We are a UK registered charity, supported entirely by voluntary donations. We do not receive any money from the UN. For more information, please visit