Half of the world’s children – one billion every year – are affected by physical, sexual or physiological violence, according to the first report of its kind from the United Nations.
It also estimated that 40,000 children were murdered in 2017, the most recent year for which figures are available.
The Global Status Report on Preventing Violence Against Children 2020 also warned that the pandemic and associated lockdowns would only exacerbate the situation.
Henriette Fore, executive director of Unicef, said: “Violence against children has always been pervasive, and now things could be getting much worse… It is urgent to scale up efforts to protect children during these times and beyond.”
The report, produced by Unicef, Unesco, the World Health Organization (WHO), the End Violence Partnership and the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on Violence Against Children, aims to track progress in what countries are doing to prevent violence against under-18 year olds.
In a survey across 155 countries, it found that while 88 per cent had key laws in place to protect children, less than half were strongly enforcing the legislation.
“There is never any excuse for violence against children,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We have evidence-based tools to prevent it, which we urge all countries to implement. Protecting the health and well-being of children is central to protecting our collective health and well-being, now and for the future.”
The report points to the “Inspire” framework, a set of seven strategies for preventing and responding to violence against children, including ensuring children have access to school.