Europe

UNICEF, French president urge protection for children of war

  • FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2015 file photo, a serviceman teaches children to operate weapons at a military training ground of Ukraine's National Guard outside the village of Stare, the Kiev region, Ukraine. Child soldiers, underage sex slaves, orphaned adolescent refugees _ France's president and UNICEF are urging Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 the international community to do more to protect the more than 200 million children of today's conflict zones. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2015 file photo, a serviceman teaches children to operate weapons at a military training ground of Ukraine's National Guard outside the village of Stare, the Kiev region, Ukraine. Child soldiers, underage sex slaves, orphaned adolescent refugees _ France's president and UNICEF are urging Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 the international community to do more to protect the more than 200 million children of today's conflict zones. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Monday, Jan. 30, 2017 photo, migrants including unaccompanied minors shield from the cold around fires in an abandoned warehouse where they took refuge in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

    In this Monday, Jan. 30, 2017 photo, migrants including unaccompanied minors shield from the cold around fires in an abandoned warehouse where they took refuge in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)  (The Associated Press)

Child soldiers, underage sex slaves, orphaned adolescent refugees — France's president and UNICEF are urging the international community to do more to protect the more than 200 million children of today's conflict zones.

French President Francois Hollande pleaded that "the situation is urgent" as he opened a conference in Paris on Tuesday with representatives from 80 countries. He decried "the nightmare that killed these children's innocence."

Organizers want coordinated efforts to liberate and re-integrate thousands of child soldiers from Sudan to Somalia, and thousands of girls forced into wedlock by militants from Nigeria to Afghanistan. The conference is pushing for tougher prosecution of abusers, and protection for hospitals and schools targeted in war zones.

Hollande also called on Britain to take in unaccompanied child refugees currently in France.