Child Soldiers: Forced to Fight
wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have dominated Western media in recent years, some
developing countries have been engaged in bloody battles for decades. Children
often become involved in these conflicts as soldiers and even human shields.
Against Their Will
Young refugees from the Ivory Coast gathered at a camp
in Liberia after political upheaval in 2011.
are forced to fight by state governments. According to the United Nations'
definition of child soldiers, these combatants are under 18 years of age, but
the reality is that many of them are far younger. Children as young as 10 or 11
years old are targeted by militant groups and dictatorships to fight in
political and regional conflicts. Despite the fact that recruiting children
under the age of 15 into armed forces is considered a war crime according to the
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, an estimated 300,000
children have been forced to take up arms and risk their lives.
to Amnesty International, many children are abducted from their homes, schools
and even local streets and coerced into fighting. Others volunteer out of
extreme poverty and a lack of hope. In addition to the physical dangers of armed
combat, child soldiers are at risk of prolonged psychological disorders, which
are often caused by witnessing traumatic scenes of violence and death.
Data from Child Soldiers International suggests that some states, such as
Myanmar, the Philippines, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, have a long history of using
children in armed conflicts. However, in recent years, increasing numbers of
children have been forced into combat in other countries, including Uganda, the
Ivory Coast and Libya. Children have also been recruited by militant groups
during the conflict in Mali. Between 2010 and 2012, an estimated 20 countries
used children in combat. In some cases, children have been used by older
fighters as human shields and suicide bombers.
A Vicious Cycle
of the primary factors in the use of children as soldiers is extreme poverty. In
developing nations, parents may be so desperate for food and medical treatment
that they sell their children to armed militias. In other instances, children
volunteer themselves out of a desire for regular meals and the illusion of
protection. Other children are recruited by force.
can cause lasting poverty for millions of people. Food insecurity, as well as a
lack of basic health care and education, can contribute to the likelihood that
children will be forced to fight. According to UNICEF, children are more likely
to become soldiers if they have been displaced from their families, live in
combat zones or areas of civil unrest, and if they have limited access to
education. Many young children are highly impressionable, and militant groups
use this vulnerability to recruit them.
It can be challenging to help
children in need who are at risk of becoming child soldiers, partly due to the
fact that many conflicts involving young combatants are a result of governmental
breakdown. Even identifying children at risk can be difficult.
these challenges, ChildFund works in some of the poorest countries in the world
to give hope and a brighter future for children by providing basic resources and
educational opportunities. One of the ways you can help is by sponsoring a child. For just $28 per month, you can help us
work with other child development agencies and nongovernmental organizations to
fight child poverty and help bring an end to the inhumane practice of recruiting