UNITED NATIONS, June 13 (UPI) -- Progress to protect children in "armed conflict" zones was made in 2012, but fighting in many countries still poses danger for them, a U.N. report said.
"In 2012, boys and girls from several countries had better protection from the effects of conflict, but new and ongoing crises in Mali, Central African Republic and Syria, for example, had and continue to have a devastating effect on children," said Leila Zerrougui, the special representative of the secretary-general for children and armed conflict.
The annual "Children and Armed Conflict" report of the U.N. secretary-general, released Wednesday, highlighted progress made last year to protect children living in countries affected by conflict and also documented how war's changing character and tactics of war create unprecedented threats for them, the United Nations said in a release.
The annual report covers 22 situations taking place in 21 countries where children are victims of violence.
The report said thousands of children were released from armed forces and armed groups in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Myanmar, Sudan and South Sudan. In 2012, action plans were signed in South Sudan, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia as roadmaps to end violations and prevent children from being recruited and used as soldiers, the United Nations said.
This year, the U.N.'s "list of shame" includes 55 armed forces and groups from 14 countries, including 11 in Mali, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria.
The lack of definable frontlines or identifiable opponents, and the increasing use of terror tactics by some armed groups have made children more vulnerable, the report said.
Ending impunity for grave violations, including reported torture, against children is crucial, Zerrougui said.
"International justice must step in when national courts lack the capacity or willingness to bring alleged perpetrators to justice," she said. "But it's essential that we support Governments to reduce the accountability gap."