More than 10,000 children were killed or maimed in armed conflicts in 2017, according to an annual report released by the UN.

The severe spike in young casualties occurred worldwide, reported The New York Times.

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“When your own house or your school can be attacked without qualms, when traditional safe-havens become targets, how can boys and girls escape the brutality of war?” Virginia Gamba, the United Nations secretary-general’s special representative for children and armed conflict, told the Times. “This shows a blatant disregard for international law by parties to conflict, making civilians, especially children, increasingly vulnerable to violence, use, and abuse.”

Gamba’s office confirmed more than 900 cases of rape and sexual violence, 1,300 child deaths or injuries due to a Saudi Arabian coalition, record-level recruitments of children for armed violence in the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, and more human rights abuses against children in Syria than ever before.

“It is the use of human beings as toys, as weapons, as terror, to confuse society, and to divide those children from even the remotest possibility of ever being an active part of society,” she told the Times.

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The United Nations General Assembly established the mandate of the special representative in 1996 and has been publishing an annual report since 2000, the Times noted.

Points cover killing and maiming, recruitment or use of children as soldiers, sexual violence, abduction, attacks against schools or hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access. The report is then used to “name and shame” countries that have failed to protect children.

The most recent report criticized 14 different countries in particular: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, the Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia avoided being specifically named, but the report did assert that “a coalition of Arab countries fighting the Houthis, a Shiite rebel group in Yemen, should be held to account,” reported the Times.

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But the report is not without its detractors.

Saudi Arabia largely condemned the UN’s findings, referring to it as “inaccurate information provided by unreliable sources.” Human Rights Watch also questioned the omission of Israel, Sudan, and Iraq, as well actors in Ukraine in the report.

“The voluminous evidence in the report on violations against children in Yemen, Sudan, and Palestine show that the secretary general’s ‘list of shame’ is tainted by completely unjustified omissions,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, in a news release.

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More Children Are Being Killed or Maimed in Conflicts Than Ever Before: UN

By Joanna Prisco