For Western civilizations, it is hard to comprehend the usage of children as soldiers for different purposes in other countries. It is hard even to imagine a child holding a gun. However, child soldiers are a very real epidemic in most of the African continent. This problem is prevalent in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in Central Africa. In order to better understand the situation in this country, in the text below the top 10 facts about the child soldiers are presented.
Top 10 Facts about Child Soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- DRC has been infected with many different forms of armed conflict for over 20 years. A cruel tactic that the soldiers have acquired is recruiting and abducting children from their homes and enlisting them to fight, mostly against their will. It is also important to note that over 35 percent of these children were recruited voluntarily.
- Of the children enlisted as child soldiers in the DRC, one-third are young girls. Unfortunately, these girls are used as “wives” for the older men and face cruel sexual abuse from commanders and soldiers alike. Of the children released from the armies only 7 percent were girls but the organization Child Soldiers International is fighting hard to safely return as many girls as possible back to their families and homes.
- While the Child Soldiers International organization focuses heavily on ending the exploitation of girls they also work hard in researching, advocating and raising awareness to prevent the general recruitment of child soldiers in the DRC. They work tirelessly with the U.N., Congolese organizations and the DRC government in their efforts.
- Children as young as 6 have been recruited and children from ages 8 to 16 make up at least 60 percent of the soldiers in the region.
- Child soldiers suffer from immense psychological trauma as well as the struggle with the reintegration to everyday life. There are many organizations at work to help with the reintegration process such as the Action Center for Youth and Vulnerable Children (CAJED) that provides support and job skill training for those in need.
- The DRC government, while it was slow to intervene at first, is not sitting back while the recruitment of child soldiers continues. It has recently signed all international agreements, treaties and protocols with regards to child soldiers in the country.
- Of the estimated 300,000 child soldiers in the world, approximately 10 percent were from the DRC in 2003.
- In 2012 the DRC’s government signed an Action Plan with the U.N. to stop the enlistment of child soldiers into any form of armed forces. This endeavor has drastically decreased the number of child soldiers but there are still illegal enlistments that go undocumented.
- In 2014, The DRC was listed as a tier three country, meaning there were very serious threats in terms of child trafficking in the country. Over 1,000 children were being either recruited for the armed forces or released from.
- The creator of the CAJED, Gilbert Munda, was once a child soldier himself in the DRC. He has paired his organization with UNICEF and focuses a lot of its efforts specifically in the DRC.
The recruitment and enlistment of child soldiers are one of the greatest humanitarian issues that our world faces. While the number of child soldiers has declined significantly over the years, there is still much that is needed to be done, but as with any other problem, the first step is acknowledgment.
– Samantha Harward