Although improvements have been made to end the use of child soldiers, it is believed that close to 300,000 child soldiers are still being recruited and forced into war across the world today. Child soldiers are children under the age of 18, some even as young as seven years of age, who are used for any purpose in a military or armed group. Child soldiers can act as cooks, messengers, informants, soldiers, suicide bombers or even sex slaves.
Why do people use child soldiers? Armed forces can manipulate children easily, they do not eat very much food, and they do not have to be paid. Soldiers take advantage of this and use children as pawns in their dangerous battles.
10 Child Soldier Facts
- Forty percent of the world’s armed forces use child soldiers.
- Though child soldiers are often associated with African conflicts, they have been used throughout history in armies all over the world.
- Children who are poor or have little access to education have a higher chance of being forcibly recruited.
- Some children choose to enter the military to escape poverty or because they believe they will be offered safety and security by doing so.
- Sometimes, as part of their recruitment, child soldiers are forced to kill family members or neighbors to desensitize them and make it so the children cannot go back to their homes and communities.
- Children are often used to man checkpoints when there is no active combat taking place. The soldiers will stand several meters back so if anyone starts to fire a weapon, the child soldiers will be the first ones to get hit.
- Girl soldiers are often used as “wives” and are sexually abused. Human Rights Watch has reported girl soldiers being impregnated by their commanders and having to fight with their child strapped to their backs.
- Child soldiers are known to be fighting in at least 14 countries, including Afghanistan, India, Iraq and Thailand.
- If child soldiers are released, they often lack basic survival skills because they were supplied food and shelter in battle. This makes it difficult for them to survive if and when they become free.
- When child soldiers are released, many are shunned and given little if any support to reintegrate into their communities. If there is a lack of rehabilitation support, children are frequently recruited back into the military.
These are only a few of the most disturbing facts about child soldiers. Children from all around the world are ripped from their youth and thrown into a merciless world of battle. In order to help these children return to a normal life, UNICEF has established rehabilitation centers in current and former conflict areas. The support these centers provide is crucial to healing former child soldiers and reintegrating them into their communities. This work combined with international pressure to end the practice can make these facts about child soldiers part of the past instead of the present.
– McCall Robison