A new report from an international non-governmental organization says that the 10 countries with the highest child homicide rates are all in Latin America and the Caribbean, highlighting how high levels of crime and violence are impacting the region’s youth.
Honduras was the most violent country for children under the age of 19 in the region, with a homicide rate of more than 30 children per 100,000 inhabitants — some ten times higher than the global average, according to Save the Children’s 2017 “End of Childhood” report.
Venezuela, El Salvador and Colombia each had child homicide rates of more than 20 per 100,000, while Brazil, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Belize all had rates of more than 10 per 100,000.
(Graphic courtesy of Save the Children)
InSight Crime Analysis
The report links the high rates of child homicides in Latin America and the Caribbean to persistently high levels of crime and violence throughout the region over many years. And indeed, child homicide rates appear to more or less correlate with broader regional trends in violence.
El Salvador, Venezuela and Honduras were the region’s most violent countries in 2016, with overall homicide rates of 81.2, 59 and 59, respectively, per 100,000. Save the Children’s report found that these same countries also had the highest rates of child homicides.
In El Salvador, the report found that gang violence was a primary contributor to the high rates of child homicides — a notion that is backed by other evidence. In other countries in the region, however, the dynamics of the relationship between child homicides and crime were different.
Mexico, for example, did not fall within the list of countries with the top ten highest child homicide rates, despite having a presence of strong organized crime groups that has contributed to high levels of overall violence.
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This is likely because Central American gangs are known to aggressively target children for recruitment. Those who do join the gangs face an increased risk to their physical security due to their increased exposure to criminal violence. Those who refuse are often killed.
But this is not the case in Mexico. While street gangs sometimes use children as lookouts, or for extortion and other petty crimes, Mexico’s most powerful criminal organizations are sophisticated cartels that have not been known to employ children as extensively due to the relative complexity of their criminal activities.
In Colombia, on the other hand, the country’s decades-long armed conflict has involved numerous child soldiers, which has likely contributed to its elevated child homicide rate. Nearly 50 percent of adult combatants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) were “inducted as minors,” according to a 2012 report on their involvement in the armed conflict.