European Union Delegation to Singapore

High-Level Side Event: Protection of Children - Invisible Victims of Armed Conflict and COVID-19

15/09/2021 - 16:21

23 September 2021, New York - High Level Side Event on the Protection of Children


Welcome remarks by the Co-chairs

  • Sophie Wilmès, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Affairs and Foreign Trade, Belgium
  • Janez Lenarčič, European Union Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, EU

Panel I on the impact of conflict and COVID-19 on the protection of children, including the increase of grave violations (CAAC), GBV, IDP/refugee protection issues moderated by Katrina Sichel

  • Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner, UNHCR
  • Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC
  • Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

Panel II on the impact of conflict and COVID-19 on the protection of children because of the disruption of services, including health, mental health, and education services, as well as food insecurity moderated by Katrina Sichel

  • Omar Abdi, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF
  • Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children
  • Local children’s rights NGO (tbc)  

Interventions from pre-registered participants

Closing remarks

  • Martin Griffiths, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General, OCHA
  • Massoudou Hassoumi, Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Niger

When it's time, join the Webex event here:


The event will focus on approaches that guarantee children affected by armed conflict do not remain invisible in the post-COVID-recovery and to ensure that children’s rights are respected and their needs addressed.


Based on children’s real stories, this event will highlight how the combined effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and armed conflict have exposed children to greater threats, exacerbated vulnerabilities and worsened the protection needs of children, how humanitarian organizations and member states are attempting to address this, and which challenges they are facing.


The event will draw lessons from these challenges and will call on member states, humanitarian, development and peace organizations, practitioners and decision makers to address these issues from a nexus perspective and to thereby put child-focused solutions at the center of their recovery strategies and policies.


The event will also provide an opportunity to share best practices and to propose a set of core recommendations to help address the unprecedented rise in child protection concerns.


The COVID-crisis has aggravated the situation for millions of children globally, particularly the 426 million living in conflict areas[1], as the worsening socio-economic conditions, lockdowns and school closures have brought further threats[2]. The latest Secretary-General report on Children and Armed Conflict states that almost 20.000 boys and girls in 21 situations of concern directly suffered grave violations against them in 2020[3]. And yet, during armed conflict, the plight of children as well as the short, medium and long-term effects of conflict and violence on them are often overlooked.


The pandemic increased the vulnerability of conflict-affected children to the six grave violations, including killing and maiming, abduction, recruitment and use, sexual violence and attacks on schools and hospitals. At the same time, isolation and measures put in place to combat the pandemic complicated the work of UN child protection staff, made access to services extremely challenging, and impeded humanitarian access.


From a humanitarian perspective, children affected by armed conflict are at much higher risk of being exposed to broader protection concerns, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this trend.


  • The pandemic negatively impacted public health systems already strained by armed conflicts and led to closures of schools and other education facilities. Meanwhile, widespread attacks against schools and hospitals continued and even increased in certain areas. On certain occasions, restrictions impeded the safe and rapid access for frontline medical and humanitarian workers to people in need.


  • With school closures, movement restrictions and the loss or reduction of household income as a consequence of the pandemic, families increasingly resorted to negative coping mechanisms and the school drop-out rate has increased – particularly for girls. Consequently, children are more exposed to recruitment and use by armed groups, child labor, including the worst forms of child labor, as well as child, early and forced marriage and teenage pregnancies. Child marriage is among the most common risks for displaced girls identified over the last five years. There is furthermore a risk of gender imbalances within the family when girls are increasingly expected to perform household duties, chores and caring responsibilities.


  • Furthermore, movement restrictions, lockdowns and border closures hampered the work to reconnect and reunite families, including refugee parents and children, separated by war and violence. Cross-border family reunifications came to a near-standstill, and reduced access to refugee camps further hindered efforts to trace missing family members. Fears of contracting COVID-19 by potential foster families meant identifying appropriate family-based alternative care for newly separated children and children whose parents died. For children deprived of liberty, COVID-19 has meant the limitation of family visits, often cutting off valuable lifelines for children who want to maintain contact with their loved ones and, more pragmatically, receive food, clothing and medicine.


  • Together with the impact of confinement measures, these challenges have increased the risk for children to be exposed to all forms of violence, including sexual and gender-based violence. In displacement contexts, risks of violence, harassment or abuse of displaced children increased by 10 per cent in 2020 compared to the previous year. Depriving children of care, education and health services jeopardizes their chances of a healthy and prosperous life. The mental health and psychological well-being of children deteriorates as they struggle to cope with the socio-economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on their safety.


  • One in 10 children globally has a disability. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, women and girls with disabilities were exposed to higher rates of gender-based violence, and children with disabilities experienced discrimination, neglect, abuse and violence. Children with disabilities are among the world’s most vulnerable, marginalized and stigmatized populations, with COVID-19 further exposing them to the risk of abuse and violence.



    Linda.Gueye [at]