An anonymized photo of a child who was kidnapped by armed groups in the DRC.

Abduction of Children in Armed Conflict 

Children living in areas affected by conflict continue to suffer heavily from the six grave violations of children’s rights in conflict, including abduction. In 2021, children in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), Somalia, Syria and Yemen suffered the highest number of verified violations.

The number of children who suffered abduction in 2021 is the highest since recording started in 2005. In 2021, 3,460 cases were verified; 69% were boys and 30% were girls. Around 300 more girls were verified as having been abducted in 2021 compared with 2020.

The highest numbers of verified abductions were in the DRC, with 1,192 children recorded as abducted, accounting for 34% of the total number across all conflict situations in 2021. Among these children, 850 were boys and 342 were girls. The recorded number of girls abducted increased by 48%, from 231 girls in 2020 to 342 girls in 2021. Many of the abducted children also suffered from other grave violations: 460 were also recorded as recruited and used by armed forces and groups, and 94 were recorded as having suffered from sexual violence.

The number of recorded cases of abduction was also alarmingly high in Somalia, with 1,030 cases, of which 933 were boys and 97 were girls. Children abducted in Somalia account for about 30% of the total number across all conflict situations. Over the last ten years, 10,000 children have been abducted in Somalia, accounting for 42% of the total recorded number of children abducted across conflict situations in this period.

Jean's Story: Captured by Armed Groups in the DRC

"We were at the river swimming when people took us into the forest by force. They tortured us, beat us, and taught us how to kill, smoke hemp, and kidnap people. We have suffered a lot."

Jean is a 17-year-old boy from a village in the province of South Kivu in the DRC. At the age of 16, he was captured by an armed group and, along with other children, taught to steal, kidnap, and kill.

"When I was in the forest, I felt very bad. I was very scared. My life in the forest was difficult. We spent the night on the ground without eating anything. I lived in the forest for seven months. We were a large group of children. Many of the children remain in the armed group."

He also says that he was often going to bed hungry and sleeping on the ground. After seven long and hard months amongst the armed group, Jean was rescued.

"Since my return, I’m treated differently. Parents are afraid to let their children play with anyone who was in the forest. They were afraid of me because they knew that I was in an armed group."


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