In 2020, the international community grappled with the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and its devastating impacts. Despite calls from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres for a global ceasefire, armed conflicts marked by high levels of violence against civilians continued and gravely affected children’s rights. Measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 exacerbated existing challenges and vulnerabilities for all children, but particularly for those living in situations of armed conflict. Pandemic-related restrictions forced schools to close, eliminated safe spaces for children, and decreased access to health care and social services. Child protection actors warned that children living in armed conflict were at increased risk of recruitment and use by armed forces and armed groups, abduction, and sexual violence due to deepening poverty, restrictions on movement, and reduced access to essential services. Children deprived of their liberty for alleged or actual association with parties to conflict – oftentimes in crowded and unsanitary conditions – were at high risk of contracting the virus.

Watchlist’s 2020 Annual Report describes its continued efforts to advance the UN’s Children and Armed Conflict agenda and to protect the rights of children in war, despite challenges intensified by the pandemic.

Read more in Watchlist’s 2020 Annual Report.