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7 Facts About Ugandan Child Soldiers
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) began in 1987 in Uganda to rebel against President Yoweri Museveni. Children constitute most of the army. The LRA forces child soldiers in Uganda to commit acts of violence on other minors within the LRA ranks as well as brutalities on their own siblings.

LRA and Child Soldiers in Uganda

Between 1988 and 2004, the LRA abducted 30,000 Ugandan children.

Joseph Kony heads the LRA. He grew up in the northern Ugandan village, Odek. His relative, Alice Auma Lakwena, began a rebel group called The Holy Spirit Movement in 1986 when Museveni seized power. In 1987, Kony declared himself a prophet, changed the name of the group to the LRA and began proclaiming rule based on the Ten Commandments.

In October 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) began attempting to arrest Kony. A peace agreement was finalized in April 2008, but the child soldiers in Uganda and neighboring countries remained an issue.

Since 2008, Kony and his forces have been shifting their presence to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic. The LRA Crisis Tracker, a website that reports LRA attacks and notifies email subscribers, lists 27 verified child abductions in these countries in 2018 alone.

Issues with the LRA

The LRA has displaced more than two million people since 1986 thereby increasing poverty in Uganda, especially in the north. However, the relation between the LRA and poverty is not mutually exclusive. The LRA and its brutal use of child soldiers in Uganda is a result of the harsh poverty that Kony and many others in the LRA ranks have experienced. Note the following:

  1. A huge income inequality, rooted in colonialism, exists between northern and southern Uganda’s north and south.
  2. British colonists created a militant north.
  3. The Acholi people have been systematically oppressed.

When the British colonized Uganda in 1860, a centralized government did not exist. They created agricultural and commercial centers in southern Uganda.

This left the north to provide labor. The British found higher success rates in northern Uganda for army recruitment because it provided northerners an opportunity to improve their livelihoods. These divisions continued after Uganda gained independence in 1962.

Acholi

Kony came from the impoverished north and is Acholi, an ethnolinguistic group. Idi Amin Dada, Former Ugandan President from 1971 to 1979, persecuted and executed the Acholi due to their military ties and alignment with Apollo Milton Obote, who was in office as the Prime Minister from 1962 to 1966 and as the President from 1966 to 1971 and then again from 1980 to 1985.

The British created a system where many Acholi people turned to the army to escape extreme poverty and then they were persecuted for it. Poverty and persecution influenced Kony’s disillusionment with the government and his desire to rebel and create child soldiers in Uganda.

However, the LRA’s actions have not combated the root issues of poverty and oppression. The cycle of poverty in Uganda propagates because of Kony and the LRA’s use of Ugandan child soldiers in the following ways:

  1. One of the biggest populations of displaced people now exists in northern and eastern Uganda. Most LRA raids take place at night, so when Kony’s presence was focused in Uganda, mothers and children trying to avoid becoming Ugandan soldiers fled their villages to bigger towns and secure government camps. More than 80 percent of the Acholi people were displaced.
  2. Malnutrition exists within the LRA ranks as well and many Ugandans focused on fleeing for their lives over planting food. This created severe food shortages, particularly in 2004.
  3. A lack of health workers exists because so many of them had to escape the LRA.
  4. Kony and other men in the LRA took many female captives as “wives” and forced them to have more children in order to provide more resources.

Moving Forward in Uganda

Now that most of LRA’s presence is focused elsewhere, Uganda is working to solve its problems. In 2006, 31.1 percent of Ugandans were under the national poverty line, according to The World Bank’s 2016 Uganda Poverty Assessment. In 2013, it went down to 19.7 percent. Northern and eastern Uganda still suffer devastating consequences from Kony’s reign of terror, and the same study reveals that poverty has increased in those regions from 68 percent to 84 percent in those seven years.

In June 2009, the LRA had abducted 491 civilians and caused 484 civilian fatalities in Uganda. While peace is coming to Uganda and its children, the LRA still violently demonstrates its power in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it abducted 124 civilians in 2018.

In June 2018, there have been no reported fatalities or abductions, meaning there are no new child soldiers in Uganda this year. The growing peace in Uganda provides hope that the country’s poverty rate might reduce and that the LRA would not reign indefinitely.

– Charlotte Preston
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About The Nuer of South SudanThe East-Central African country of South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011. Since then, the nation of 13 million people has struggled to maintain governance and control due to violent civil conflict. This struggle has lead to a dire humanitarian crisis and four million South Sudanese facing displacement.

The Nuer are a prominent and second most populous ethnic group in South Sudan, contributing to 16 percent, or two million people, of the total population. Given this status, the Nuer have stood at the center of the civil Sudanese conflict for decades. These 10 facts about the Nuer of South Sudan offer insight into an ethnic group afflicted most by the South Sudanese Civil War.

10 facts about the Nuer of South Sudan

  1. The Nuer live in South Sudan in rural swamps and open savannas on both sides of the Nile River. They are located approximately 500 miles south of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Due to the civil conflict, the Nuer also inhabit United Nations refugee camps in the South Sudanese capital city of Juba.Nuer also seek refuge in neighboring countries like Uganda, which hosts over a million refugees. Approximately 2.5 million South Sudanese are seeking refuge or asylum protections. The majority of these refugees are women and children.
  2. The Nuer of South Sudan are cattle raising pastoralists. Horticulture is also commonly practiced, but less desirable. With more than 80 percent of the populace living in rural areas, cattle have historically been both a cultural and religious symbol, signifying wealth as well as an economic livelihood for the Nuer. Cattle are particularly important as a part of bridewealth exchanges.
  3. Since independence, the official language of South Sudan is English, replacing Arabic, but the Nuer traditionally speak the Nuer language. The Nuer language belongs to a subgroup of Nilo-Saharan languages, as a Nilotic language indigenous to the Nile Valley.
  4. Despite a high infant mortality rate , South Sudan is the world’s youngest country. The infant mortality rate stands at 79 infants per 1,000 live births and the under-five mortality rate is 108 per 1,000 live births. Around 45 percent of the country is between zero and 14 years of age.
  5. The Nuer of South Sudan form a cluster of autonomous sections and clans. The North had long sought state control of Nuer land, but neglect of social and political developments provoked two civil wars. This eventually led to South Sudan gaining independence from the North after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 and the Independence Referendum in 2011.There is  no structured political system for the Nuer, generating significant conflict. However, dominant clans often hold more significance and elders often make decisions.
  6. In 2013, Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, was dismissed by the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, over accusations of a coup attempt against the president. In addition to past support for the North by the Nuer, this sparked massive violence; President Salva Kiir ordered the deaths of thousands of Nuer in the Juba Massacre of 2013. These actions prompted the ongoing civil war in South Sudan.
  7. Since the start of the conflict, more than 2.4 million people have been displaced. In the northern part of South Sudan, the United Nations protects civilians in camp Bentiu. Nearly everyone in this camp is Nuer. In February 2017, a group of Dinka soldiers called the Upper Nile State attacked the Bentiu U.N. compound, killing an estimated 300 Nuer civilians.
  8. Thousands of Nuer have faced rape, sexual exploitation and attacks on women outside of Protection of Civilian (POC) sites. Studies show that 65 percent of women and girls in South Sudan have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. According to UNICEF, these incidents have occurred continuously over the past two and a half years, increasing with the outbreak of violence.
  9. International nonprofit and government agencies like the Nuer International Relief Agency (NIRA), The Red Cross, UNICEF and the U.N. provide humanitarian relief, health and education for war-affected and displaced Nuer. In the first three months of 2018, the International Committee of the Red Cross provided 1,675 metric tons of food, improved access to water for 267,000 people and helped 16,000 people reach family members separated by the conflict. Additionally, these agencies actively advocated and lobbied for successful peace and reconciliation as of June 2018, as well for the support of international communities in addressing the crisis.
  10. In May 2018, more than 200 children were released from armed groups in South Sudan. The release was the third this year, totaling to more than 800 child soldiers being freed in 2018. Additional releases are expected in coming months that could result in more than 1,000 children being freed.Despite this success, an estimated 19,000 children continue to serve in armed groups. UNICEF urges for the abolishment of recruitment and for the release of all child soldiers.

These 10 facts about the Nuer of South Sudan show a lot still needs to be done on the ground to address the suffering of Nuer ethnics and all South Sudanese nationals. More than 8 million people are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance in South Sudan. However, on June 28, 2018, warring parties signed a permanent ceasefire in Sudan’s capital city Khartoum, calling for an end to the four-and-a-half year civil war. The agreement, signed by President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and Former Vice-President Riek Machar, a Nuer, represents a significant stride towards peace in South Sudan’s history and resolution of these crises.

– Joseph Ventura

Photo: Flickr

Democratic Republic of CongoDuring the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), from 1998 to 2003, more than 5.2 million children did not receive an education. Although the situation has improved since then, the legacy of the war remains, especially its effect on the female population.

In 2012, it was reported that approximately 62.92 percent of female youth aged 15 years and older were literate compared to an 87.91 percent literacy rate for young males.

Factors Impacting Girls Education in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The overarching traditional outlook about the role of females in society: Many families believe that girls have a responsibility at home, while boys should work outside as the main breadwinners. This thinking leads people to discredit education as an important part of girls’ lives, whereas boys are encouraged to attend schools.

Poverty: According to the World Bank, although the poverty rate in the DRC declined from 71 percent to 64 percent between 2005 and 2012, the country still remains one the poorest countries in the world with a ranking of at176 out of 187 countries per the United Nation’s 2015 Human Development Index. As a result of high levels of poverty, many girls take up jobs to support their families.

Opportunities in armed groups: About 30 to 40 percent of children in the armed groups are girls. Girls are often lured into joining local militias because of enticing factors like wages. However, the NGO Child Soldiers International interviewed over 200 female former child soldiers, who reported that instead of finding opportunities within these groups, they were drugged, raped or forced to commit crimes.

For those who are able to escape, they attempt to matriculate into school but are unable to because of the stigma associated with the former sexual relationships between the girls and male soldiers. The same girls who were interviewed cited how they were called “prostitutes” and “HIV carriers” by schools and were not allowed to enroll.  

Solutions

To resolve the issue of lack of girls’ education in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the nation is reforming its system so that more children are able to pursue an education. For example, the DRC has increased its education budget from 7.9 percent in 2012 to 14.7 percent in 2015. In addition, the government has received a $100 million grant from the Global Partnership for Education to continue its efforts. 

Moreover, USAID and the United Kingdom Department for International Development have funded a five-year education program that focuses on reading outcomes in the DRC. It is the largest implemented education program in the DRC and plans to improve the reading outcomes of 1.5 million grades 1-4 students.

Furthermore, USAID has worked to create safe school environments, especially for girls, by training teachers and administrators on how to assess safety and security at the school. Through this, girls will not have to fear for their safety, the lack of which also caused them to join militias.

The results of these actions are clear in the numbers. In 2016, UNESCO reported that approximately 66.5 percent of females aged 15 years and older were literate. Although a small increase, this is still an improvement from 2012. 

Girls’ education in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has faced many obstacles. However, the country is combating this crisis and ensuring that all children are provided with this opportunity, an action that other underdeveloped countries should follow.

Sheharbano Jafry
Photo: Flickr

Child soldiers in Afghanistan
Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), using children under the age of 15 in combat is deemed a war crime because children can either end up dead or traumatized from their experience. Afghanistan is a party to the Rome Statute.

Furthermore, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict was ratified by Afghanistan in 2003 and states that people under the age of 18 may not be recruited by armed groups under any circumstances. It established the need to take measures, such as prohibition and criminalization of this action, to prevent the use of child soldiers. A violation of this is considered a breach of international law.

 

Conflict Creates Instability

The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in order to remove the Taliban from power. Although Kabul was reclaimed, the Taliban still controls some regions in Afghanistan and the war has continued. Additionally, the spread of the Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan has aggravated the situation and increased the threat of terrorism. The decades of war and instability have created severe poverty and violence.

Child soldiers in Afghanistan are recruited on both sides of the conflict. Some Afghan children have even been recruited to fight in Syria. The Taliban has recruited child soldiers since the 1990s. Children participate in the war in many ways. They often are sent to combat, go on suicide missions, work in noncombat positions and serve as messengers or spies.

The Recruitment of Child Soldiers in Afghanistan

The Taliban has used Islamic religious schools to train children from a young age. They often begin studying religious subjects taught by Taliban teachers at age six and learn military skills around the age of 13. Usually, these kids are not taken by force. The Taliban schools are an attractive option for poor families since they provide food and clothing for the children.

Despite evidence of young boys participating in combat, the Taliban claims that to participate in military operations they have to prove “mental and physical maturity.” Although child soldiers in Afghanistan are mostly used by the Taliban, they are also used by the Afghan National Police as cooks and guards at checkpoints. Parents often do not oppose this since the boys could be the sole provider for their families.

Girls in the War

The number of girls considered to be child soldiers in Afghanistan is minimal. Danielle Bell, the head of the Human Rights Unit at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, addressed this when she said, “In five years of monitoring and reporting, the U.N. has verified one case of child recruitment of a girl who was a trained suicide bomber.” Although they are not trained as soldiers, girls are often taken and forced into sex slavery for military groups.

The 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act prohibits the U.S. from giving military assistance to countries that use child soldiers. Jo Becker, the children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, has criticized the U.S. for ignoring child soldiers in Afghanistan, saying, “The United States has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to support an Afghan militia that recruits and uses children to fight the Taliban.” Using children for military combat is both a violation of international law and a war crime and the United States government should take proper action against it.

– Luz Solano-Flórez
Photo: Flickr

Yemen child soldiers
As of March 2015, the United Nations has confirmed that at least 2,369 children have been recruited as Yemen child soldiers. Some of these children are engaged in active combat.

Child recruits in the Middle East and North Africa have doubled within a year as of 2017. According to southern Yemeni officials, there may be as many as 6,000 child soldiers throughout the country and 20,000 are in need of war rehabilitation. The situation in Yemen has been called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 18.8 million people needing aid and seven million going hungry.

The United Nations has argued that children and young people are receiving the worst of the conflict’s repercussions. The organization claims Houthis were responsible for 359 of 517 cases of Yemen child soldiers in 2016; 76 were recruited by government-backed groups like the Popular Resistance and the coalition. Others were recruited by Al Qaeda and its associated groups.

The Yemen conflict was set in motion in 2014 when the northern Shiite Muslim rebels, or the Houthis, allied themselves with the military and took over the Yemeni capital of Sana and other cities due to discontent with the government and president. In retaliation for the Houthis’ strike against the government, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations became involved in the conflict.

Since 2015, Saudi airstrikes have been led in an attempt to restore President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to power. The Houthis, backed by Iran, and the Saudis, backed by the U.S., U.K. and France, effectively tore the country apart with their fighting, splitting it between the north and the south.

In some ways, the destruction and conflict have forced families to view their children as valuable resources. The child soldiers’ pay of $55 every three months may be necessary to keep the family afloat, while female children are married off in exchange for a dowry. Furthermore, recruits are given a hot meal daily; 47 percent of Yemeni children suffer from stunting due to malnourishment.

The Houthis have promised monthly allowances of $80-120 to the families of child soldiers in the event that their children were to die. The group will print posters in memory of fallen Yemen child soldiers, as well.

Continuous violence and destroyed infrastructure puts civilians, and especially children, in a precarious situation.“With no end in sight to these conflicts and with families’ dwindling financial resources, many have no choice but to send their children to work or marry their daughters early,” UNICEF’s Regional Director Geert Cappelaere explained to The Guardian.

In 2014, the Yemeni government signed an action plan with the U.N. that contained a list of stipulations to ensure that there would be no more use of child soldiers. Unfortunately, progress on this front has been stalled due to the conflict and the issue of Yemen child soldiers has not yet been resolved.

Still, organizations like U.N. relief agencies continue to help where they can. “We remain committed to helping the people of Yemen. We have reached nearly six million people with clean water, distributed 3.7 million liters of fuel to public hospitals [and] treated more than 167,000 children for severe acute malnutrition,” U.N. leaders conveyed.

– Camille Wilson

Photo: Flickr


Slavery has been practiced for centuries, and although many believe it is a practice of the past, modern-day slavery is very prevalent in today’s society. It’s estimated that about 40 million people are modern slaves, and this article will explore how to end such prominent slavery.

Modern-day slavery has been defined as “debt bondage, serfdom, forced marriage of a child for the exploitation of that child.” Out of the 40 million people trapped in the slave system, around 25 million people are in forced labor, 15 million are involved in forced marriage and five million people work as sex slaves. Statistics also show that 25 percent of slaves are children and 71 percent are women.

Parts of Asia and the Pacific hold the most substantial amount of slaves, while Europe, Africa, the Arab states and the Americas also suffer from the same crisis. It is essential to know what steps and measures can be taken to know how to end slavery.

Social Media

Social media is a key component on how to end slavery. Modern slavery is not a priority compared to other political agenda movements, so utilizing social media to bring awareness to the issue can be a significant first step.

In this age of technology, social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram started as a device used to spread and share news, as well as connect individuals; thus, a simple post can be the beginning of an entire movement.

Education

Another way to end slavery is to educate yourself on the topic. Be able to note the difference between slavery of the past compared to the new definition of slavery; learn which demographic is most affected by slavery; discover which organizations strive to end slavery; and finally, how you can make a difference.

Donating Money and Time

Becoming involved in organizations that solely work to end slavery such as the Anti-Slavery International or the CNN Freedom Project is another excellent action-item, as is joining campaigns or hosting fundraisers for the organizations.

Fundraising at schools, churches, after-school programs and around your local community can significantly help organizations fund campaigns and other events that will lead to the end of slavery. Another significant method of donating time is to write to local newspapers and magazines to spread concerns.

Pay Attention to Survivors

Fighting for freedom is an important step to ending slavery, but ensuring that survivors do not fall back into the system is just as essential. A way to help survivors is finding them jobs and helping them adjust to society.

Survivors can also be necessary tools for how to end slavery — people tend to sympathize with survivors when they hear their testimonies and experiences first-hand.

Contact Your Government

Possibly one of the most beneficial measures is to express your concerns with modern slavery to your local government; contacting your senator or representative can in fact lead to mass amounts of change. The United States government has an essential hand in international affairs, and one should use this privilege as a tool to fight against modern-day slavery.

Slavery has been a virus to this world for too long, and now it is finally time to put an end to this dehumanizing practice.

– Cassidy Dyce

Photo: Flickr

Worst Countries to be a Kid
Poverty, famine, violence and abuse have robbed many children of their childhoods. About 9.2 million children die every year, and that does not include the kids who manage to survive in harsh and dangerous conditions. Countless children must learn to survive in times of war, starvation and less than adequate health services. The following are a few of many worst countries to be a kid.

War-Torn Countries: Afghanistan and South Sudan

In Afghanistan, a country ridden by war, about 1.9 million children are in need of assistance. Not only do these children battle against the poverty of their country, but they are also caught in the crossfire of the war.

This is one of the worst countries to be a kid because of the dangers of war. In the first nine months of 2017, about 700 children were killed in Afghanistan; civilian-populated areas have seen a sharp increase in violence in the past years, and a majority of victims were children. In fact, there has been a 9 percent increase in child mortality.

If children survive these vicious attacks, the experiences then lead to severe distress and trauma. Studies have shown that children who survive attacks have a higher chance of suffering from psychological issues and experiencing a negative impact on long-term development. While children are innocent bystanders in Afghanistan, other countries include youth as children soldiers.

South Sudan is in the midst of a violent civil war, and the National Liberation Movement has taken it upon themselves to recruit children into its armies. South Sudan is one of the worst countries to be a kid because the majority of the time, children are forced to become soldiers against their will.

More than 700 children have been taken into the National Liberation Movement, and more than that were kidnapped or brought in by force.

Many of these child soldiers were taken at such a young age that their military existence has become their way of life. This can cause kids to feel trapped and less likely to seek escape. Earlier this year, about 300 children soldiers were released from the Liberation, but their ranks will unfortunately only be replaced.

Child Sex Trafficking: Thailand and China

As of 2004, 800,000 children under the age of 16 were trapped in the sex trade in Thailand alone. Thailand is the most prominent countries for sex tourism, and more than half its victims are kids.

Many of the children are foreigners because traffickers usually seek children who come from immigrant families. These children are a diverse group from Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, India and Bangladesh, and it is not hard for recruiters to find children since parents or brokers will use kids as an avenue to earn money.

China is also known for its part in child sex trafficking. Similar to Thailand, children in China are subjected to prostitution and the sex trade. Traffickers target vulnerable children who are either disabled with mental disabilities or who are from migrating families.

Improvement in the Worst Countries to be a Kid

Though these facts are disheartening, international organizations such as UNICEF are working to prioritize children’s safety. The organizations have impacted numerous areas across Africa, East Asia, the Pacific and parts of Europe, and now continue to fight to decrease the number of worst countries to be a kid across the globe.

– Cassidy Dyce

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian aid to Cote d’IvoireCôte d’Ivoire is a West African country comprised of 24 million citizens. Since its 2002 civil conflict, Côte d’Ivoire has been crippled by poverty, disease and lasting ramifications of the war. Much must be done to bring sustainable development to the country; however, humanitarian aid to Côte d’Ivoire has been successful in repairing the damages caused 15 years ago.

The effects of war resonated throughout Côte d’Ivoire well past the end of the conflict. In 2010, the conflict resurfaced, which in turn required a huge intervention from the international community.

Reintegration of Child Soldiers
Côte d’Ivoire’s fragmented identity saw a surge of dangerous militia groups. Among many resources, these militia groups relied upon child soldiers to increase bloodshed. Côte d’Ivoirian children were provided weapons and missions to carry out their warlords’ demands. Due in part to extreme poverty rampant in Côte d’Ivoire, nearly 5,000 children were easily recruited. They serve on the front lines of civil conflict in addition to working as cooks, sex slaves and spies.

As the 2002 and 2010 conflicts have begun to stabilize, measures have been taken to reintegrate child soldiers into everyday life. While this goal is quantifiably difficult to achieve, organizations such as UNICEF  have stepped up to the challenge. This has been done through programs such as the Prevention, Demobilization and Reintegration Programme to assist child soldiers escaping the grasp of militia groups. This program seeks to prevent future recruitment by returning them to their communities, enrolling them in school or training them in an occupation. This program has assisted thousands of children associated with armed militia groups.

Peacekeeping Success
The United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire created a peacekeeping presence in the West African country in 2003. Its purpose was to protect the country’s citizens, provide legal outlets for disputes and ensure the disarmament of rebel militia groups.

The peacekeeping presence is of the utmost importance to humanitarian aid to Côte d’Ivoire. Recent years have seen success in these efforts. The country is finally stabilizing and resurging conflicts are becoming less frequent. Governmental agencies are being turned back over to Côte d’Ivoire from the U.N. and prosperity is returning to the country. In June 2017, the U.N. officially ended its peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire.

The ramifications of Côte d’Ivoire’s civil conflicts will continue to make their presence felt for some time. For now, though, the country’s citizens can glimpse a glimmer of hope after 15 years of turmoil and bloodshed. Much more must be done to address poverty, hunger and disease, but humanitarian aid to Côte d’Ivoire has proven to be effective in the face of turbulence.

– Eric Paulsen

Photo: Flickr

Child Soldiers
Around 250,000 children around the globe are child soldiers.

Child soldiers are people under the age of 18 who are used for military purposes. They can be boys or girls and can range in age from four to late teens. The tasks of a child soldier vary from fighting to being a messenger.Discussed below are the three leading organizations that help child soldiers recover from being involved in such activities.

 

Organizations Helping Child Soldiers

 

Child Soldiers International

Child Soldiers International is an organization based in London that has been around since 1998. Established by other leading human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Child Soldiers International works to end recruitment and use of children on behalf of armed groups.

Among things such as reduction of violations and promoting the ban on child recruitment, the organization puts an emphasis on reintegration. For instance, Child Soldiers International offers literacy and numeracy classes for girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The organization also advocates “to increase the quantity and quality of reintegration programs.”

War Child

War Child, a Canadian based organization, has been around since 1999. “By providing access to education, opportunity and justice, War Child gives children in war-affected communities the chance to reclaim their childhood.” With better education and opportunity, one can better resist the appeal of armed groups.

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEF has been committed to children for the past 70 years. UNICEF has played a big role in helping children around the world by releasing children associated with armed forces and providing them with assistance to rturn home. The organization supports a variety of recovery services such as physical and mental health, education and skills training.

Since 1998, UNICEF has helped more than 100,000 former children associated with armed groups reintegrate into their communities. The organization discourages the use of the term ‘child soldier’ as it doesn’t adequately include the variety of roles children are recruited to do for military purposes.

These three organizations helping child soldiers recover are making a difference in the lives of children around the world who find themselves caught in the conflict.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

Soldiers Used In War
The use of child soldiers in war is a persistent issue, despite ongoing international efforts to stop the practice. The U.N. defines a child soldier as anyone under age 18 who is recruited or used by an armed force or group in any capacity. The International Criminal Court further designates recruiting or using children under age 15 as a war crime. Yet, military groups continue to recruit children because they are cheap and manipulable.

Many children are forced to join military groups at a young age. Child soldiers are also easier to manipulate and force into conflict. Recruiters typically target children from troubled areas or conflict zones, likely accustomed to violence and with fewer educational or work opportunities.

Other children join military groups voluntarily to flee poverty, gain protection, or to connect with something resembling a family. Military organizations are viewed as a safe and secure group of comrades, distant from their difficult lives.

There are several roles that militant groups fill with child soldiers. In many cases, children participate directly in conflict, but they can also be used for other dangerous support roles. Many are porters who carry heavy loads of ammunition or injured soldiers, while others are lookouts or cooks. Girls are often forced to be sex slaves.

Participating in armed conflict has significant consequences for the physical and emotional development of children. Many endure abuse and witness extreme violence or death. Even worse, they are forced to commit horrific acts, resulting in lifelong psychological distress. Child soldiers also have a higher risk of sexual abuse by adults or other children. These children are plagued by depression, anxiety, insomnia and numerous other health issues.

While the issue of child soldiers remains daunting, progress is being made to reduce the practice across the globe. UNICEF created a campaign in 2014 called “Children, Not Soldiers” aimed towards global prevention of the use of child soldiers. The campaign focuses on seven countries: Afghanistan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Thousands of soldiers have been released and introduced back into civilian life because of the campaign.

National campaigns have also helped countries make significant strides towards reducing the use of child soldiers. Countries have implemented disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs to make a change. Stopping such an ingrained practice and rehabilitating children who have grown up in conflict is a difficult task. However, these programs represent a strong effort to stop the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr