UNICEF UK is calling on the UK Government to sign up to the Safe Schools Declaration, sending a clear message to the world that schools must not be attacked or occupied for military purposes.

Photos and video are available for download here: http://uni.cf/23VoIj6  

LONDON 19 May 2016 – An average of four schools or hospitals are attacked or occupied by armed forces and groups every day – according to UNICEF analysis released ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit.

The findings, drawn from the most recent Report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, come in the wake of recent attacks on education and health facilities and workers – including the bombing of schools in Yemen, and a strike on a hospital in Aleppo, Syria on 27 April, that killed at least 50 people, including one of the last paediatrician’s in the area. 

“Children are being killed, wounded, and permanently disabled in the very places where they should be protected and feel safe,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes.

“Attacks against schools and hospitals during conflict are an alarming, and disgraceful, trend.  Intentional and direct strikes on these facilities, and on health workers and teachers, can be war crimes.  Governments and other actors need to urgently protect schools and hospitals by upholding the provisions of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and states must sign the Safe Schools Declaration.”[i]

Attacks against schools and hospitals are one of the six grave violations against children identified and addressed by the UN Security Council.  The last Report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict documented more than 1500 incidents of attacks on, or military use of, schools and hospitals in 2014, including:

  • In Afghanistan 163 schools and 38 health facilities were attacked.
  • In Syria, 60 attacks on education facilities were recorded, as well as nine cases of military use of schools and 28 attacks on health facilities.
  • In Yemen, 92 schools were used for military purposes by armed forces and groups.
  • In South Sudan, there were seven incidents of attacks on schools and 60 involving military use.
  • A total of 543 educational facilities were damaged or destroyed in the State of Palestine and three attacks were documented on Israeli schools.
  • According to education authorities in Northeast Nigeria, a total of 338 schools were destroyed and damaged between 2012 and 2014.

Over the past year, the UN monitoring system has also documented so-called ‘double-tap’, or even ‘triple-tap’, strikes on healthcare facilities in which civilians are attacked, as well as the first responders arriving on the scene. 

Beyond attacks on buildings, conflict has other far-reaching consequences on children’s education and healthcare. In Syria, for example, as well as attacks on hospitals, the removal of medical kits and surgical supplies from aid convoys, restrictions on medevacs, and killing of medical personnel, mean that access to critical and lifesaving healthcare for civilians in affected areas is diminishing day by day.

“Children are being abducted from their schools in horrific circumstances in countries like Nigeria and South Sudan, while others are being raped, or recruited and used as child soldiers,” said Afshan Khan.

The very first World Humanitarian Summit will take place in Istanbul on the 23rd and 24th of May. Global leaders will discuss how to effectively respond to major humanitarian emergencies, and how to be better prepared to meet challenges of the future.

Unicef UK is urging the UK Government to sign up to the Safe Schools Declaration, sending a clear message to the world that schools must not be attacked or occupied for military purposes. Ask your MP to keep schools safe during conflcit http://ow.ly/4nmjC6


Notes to editors:

Interviews with UNICEF spokespeople in London and countries affected by humanitarian emergencies are available.

For further information, please contact:

Joe English, UNICEF UK Press Office +44 (0)207 375 6091 JoeE@Unicef.org.uk

Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or media@unicef.org.uk

About Unicef
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 to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk

[i] The Safe Schools Declaration, developed through state consultations led by Norway and Argentina in Geneva throughout the first half of 2015, provides states the opportunity to express broad political support for the protection and continuation of education in armed conflict, and is the instrument for states to endorse and commit to implement the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. The Declaration was opened for endorsement at the Oslo Conference on Safe Schools convened by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 29, 2015. A first group of 37 states endorsed it that day and that number has since been growing.

The following States have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration (as of April 27, 2016):

Afghanistan, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, Zambia