Violence against children in war-torn countries soared in 2020, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to an annual United Nations report released on Monday.
Child abductions increased 90 percent while rape and sexual abuse of children rose 70 percent compared to the previous year, said the report, signed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
"The overall number of grave violations remained alarmingly high at 26,425," the report said.
Virginia Gamba, the UN's special representative for children and armed conflict, said "the wars of adults have taken away the childhood of millions of boys and girls again in 2020."
The report found that the pandemic "increased the vulnerability of children to abduction, recruitment, and use, sexual violence and attacks on schools and hospitals."
Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia were the most dangerous places for children in 2020, the report found.
Human rights groups criticized Guterres for not including Israel and the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition in Yemen on its list of violators.
Jo Becker, children's rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said Guterres was "letting warring parties implicated in the deaths and maiming of children off the hook."
The Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict also slammed Guterres for omitting the Saudi and UAE-led coalition in Yemen, noting that the UN itself accused them of killing or wounding 194 children in Yemen last year.
"The secretary-general's decision to remove the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition from his shame list last year sent a clear message that parties can get away with killing children," said director Adrianne Lapar.