Children in conflict: Child Soldiers
Conflict causes psychological and physical damage that can often never be repaired.Every child has the right to go to school and to live free from violence. Using kids as soldiers constitutes one of the most horrendous breaches of those rights and it is simply and unequivocally wrong.
Key facts and statistics about child soldiers
Where are child soldiers?Africa has the largest number of child soldiers. Child soldiers are being used in armed conflict in Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan.
In June 2013 The UN set a goal to have no child soldiers anywhere in the world by 2016. There are eight Government armies listed for the recruitment and use of children and six of them have already committed to making their armies child-free. In 2012, South Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo signed action plans with the United Nations. The previous year, Afghanistan and Chad made similar commitments. Discussions initiated with the Governments of Yemen and Sudan are expected to lead to action plans in the near future.
Why use children as soldiers?
Children are used as soldiers because they are easier to condition and brainwash.
They don't eat much food, don't need paying much and have an underdeveloped sense of danger so are easier to send into the line of fire.
As children make up the majority demographic in many conflict-affected countries, there's a constant supply of potential recruits.
Due to their size and 'expendability', children are often sent into battle as scouts or decoys, or sent in the first wave to draw the enemy's fire.
A real child soldier with real UN solutions
What are the effects on children?The effects on children are felt long after their physical scars have healed and their drug dependencies overcome. Many child soldiers are desensitised to violence - often at a very formative time in their development and this can psychologically damage them for life.
Even when they're set free or escape, many children can't go back home to their families and communities because they've been ostracised from them. They may have been forced to kill a family member or neighbour just so they can never go back. Many girls have babies from their time in the rebel groups and their communities/families don't accept them home.
Most have missed out on school - sometimes for many years. Without an education they have very little future prospects and sometimes return to the rebel groups as they have simply no other way of feeding themselves.
How do child soldiers get recruited?