Dear world leaders

Every five minutes, somewhere in the world, a child dies as a result of violence.

Dear world leaders,

Every five minutes, somewhere in the world, a child dies as a result of violence.

We are young people from 18 different countries; survivors of violence who have experienced pain and abuse.

There are millions of children just like us.

© UNICEF/UNI181483/Zmey
“We weren’t leaving our house, weren’t going out to see our friends; we weren’t studying or having some extra classes like we used to,” said Zina, 10, recalling when fighters occupied her hometown, in Ukraine. “And then the shelling began. Fighters were driving down to our street on the airborne assault vehicle. Some fragments of mines broke our window and parts of the roof. Mom realized that we could be killed any day, and so our parents packed up, took our documents, and we left.”

We have been forced to flee our homes, fight as child soldiers and work as domestic slaves. We have been raped, beaten and attacked in our own communities. We have watched, powerless, as our parents, siblings and friends were murdered in front of us. Memories like these make our bellies burn with fear.

© UNICEF/UNI195880/El Baba
“When the last war intensified in the Gaza Strip, Israeli aircraft bombed the surroundings of my house, and people started screaming and shouting. … My family decided to leave and run away from this area. … We returned to the area after a month of fear and displacement. We did not find any landmark of our previous life. … I feel safe when I sleep on my bed without being afraid to wake up to the news of a new war,” said Sabreen, 15, from the State of Palestine.
© UNICEF/UNI195850/McKeever
Boto*, 16, is undergoing treatment to have a bullet removed from his neck. He was shot during the two-year period he fought with the Cobra Faction rebel group, in South Sudan. “When they take the bullet, out I will feel safe. … If I am OK after my operation and I can go to school, I can become a doctor or a leader in my community. I might become an important person. I don’t want fighting, and I don’t want to be a soldier. I want to be a doctor and help many people,” he said.

No child should start their life like this.

In September you will meet to agree new global development goals, a plan of action for the next 15 years. As young citizens of the world, we call on you to come together to build a safer world for children.

© UNICEF/UNI195875/Boto
Receiving little family support, Alice*, 18, from Portugal, ended up in a relationship in which she suffered physical and mental violence. “The mind games [and] psychological pressure made me feel guilty, and I blamed myself for his behaviour, although I knew I was not doing anything wrong. When I finally decided to overcome the psychological and verbal violence and confront him, the physical violence started — shoving, slapping, grabbing and pushing, among other things,” she said.

We hope that one day the only bruises on the skin of children will be the ones they get from playing in the playground.

© UNICEF/UNI195866/Blundell
“Violence is the norm here, and I’m always trying to avoid it because it can come from anyone — police, adults or even people my own age. … I feel safe in my estate, where I know everyone and they know me. … No one makes me really feel safe outside my area — probably only your best mates, but that’s about it. You can’t trust anyone else,” said Tommy*, 16, from Ireland. “If I felt safe all the time,” he added, “I could be myself a bit more and not always look behind me.”
© UNICEF/UNI195859/Imperato
Magu, 17, from Spain, is a survivor of sexual abuse. She was only able to talk about her experiences two years ago, after years of suffering. “Every time I tried to talk about it to my mother, the words got stuck in my throat, and I couldn’t do it. … If anyone would look at me … I’d wish that they would realize what was happening. It was the thing that I wanted most in the world — for someone to come into my room without saying anything, hug me and tell me that everything would be OK.”

You must act now to end violence against all children.

Do not wait another five minutes. Our lives depend on it.

Parwana* (20), Australia; Joao* (18), Brazil; Ravid (16), Cambodia; Laetitia (14) Democratic Republic of the Congo; Sabreen (15) State of Palestine; Daldís (19), Iceland; Tommy* (16), Ireland; Ashley* (23), Jamaica; Mohammad (15), Jordan; Akhrat (16), Netherlands; Babagana* (12), Nigeria; Rabia* (9), Pakistan; Alice* (18), Portugal; Sane* (18), South Africa; Boto* (16), South Sudan; Magu* (17), Spain; Jodie (20), United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Zina (10), Ukraine.

*Children’s names have been changed to protect their identity.

Learn more about UNICEF’s #ENDviolence initiative.