The breakdown of family and social structures and the pervading military influence in war-torn Côte d’Ivoire has resulted in children being denied access to education and health care and left them vulnerable to violence, abuse and recruitment by armed groups, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “This conflict has impacted the lives everyone but especially those who are most vulnerable – the women and children,” UNICEF country Representative Youssouf Oomar said of the three-year conflict between the Government and rebels which has left the West African country split in two.“And in particular the rights of children have not been respected,” he added, noting that because of the slow implementation of the joint UN and African Union (AU) peace process, there is still cause for concern. Because of the division of the country, the education system has been disrupted with an estimated 700,000 children out of school. In addition 60,000 children remain trapped in a state of ‘educational limbo’ due to the suspension of national exams in the north. Similarly, health care facilities have also been impacted, especially in the northern region, putting the lives of countless children at risk. The breakdown of family structures has forced many children to fend for themselves, exposing them to violence and abuse. Girls in particularly remain vulnerable to sexual abuse due to lawlessness and general economic decline with many turning to prostitution as a means of survival. In addition hundreds of children continue to be associated with armed groups and there are reports of continued recruitment and training of child soldiers in the western region of the country. UNICEF has been conducting awareness campaigns about the protection of children with all sides in the conflict and has also launched a countrywide campaign highlighting the right of every child to education. “I want to call on all parties to make sure that the rights of all children are respected and I urge them to accelerate the peace process for a unified and peaceful Côte D’Ivoire so that these children can help build a better future,” Mr. Oomar said.