Children who are under 18 and get recruited by a non-state or state armed groups to be used as fighters, suicide bombers, cooks, human shields, for sexual purposes, spies and messengers are called child soldiers.
There are thousands of children who serve in armed conflicts throughout the world.
Some are even as young as 8 years old.
These children work in front lines, suicide missions, sexual slavery, messengers or spies. Some children are abducted while others are coaxed in; whereas some volunteer when they become desperate and don’t find any other means of survival.
A few facts about Child Soldiers
Children who are separated from their homes, living in war areas, or have little access to education are more likely to join armed groups as it is the only way that guarantees food and survival. They don’t realize the danger that they might be exposed to.
Particularly the issue of girls being made sex slaves in these situations has to get even further attention. The exploitation of females and children increases during wars. 10 to 30% child soldiers are girls who are used for different purposes including fighting and sexual violence.
The main reason for using children as soldiers is because they can be manipulated easily, eat less, are innocent and they don’t get paid, which makes it very easy for armed groups to use them as needed.
The after effects can be felt long after the scars have healed
These children can never go back to their homes or it is very difficult for them. They have been desensitized to violence and sometimes they are forced to kill even a family member or neighbor so that they may never go back. These children become psychologically damaged for the rest of their lives. They need constant counseling and proper psychiatric treatment just to have some level of normality in their lives.
Africa has the largest number of child soldiers. Since 2011 recruiting of child soldiers has been reported in these countries; India, Columbia, Afghanistan, Israel, Iraq, Mali, Libya, Thailand, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and Sudan and more.
What is the world doing about it?
February 12 is Red Hand Day, a day to commemorate and draw attention to the plight of child soldiers globally. The red hand symbolizes STOP! To put a stop to recruiting and using children in wars!
Organizations that help Child Soldiers
There are organizations throughout the world that are working day and night to help these children. Organizations like Amnesty International, IRC, We are Child Soldiers International, War Child International, Child Soldiers International.
Amnesty International is a non government international organization, which is promoting human rights. It has more than 3 million supporters and members all over the world. It was founded in 1961 by Peter Benenson in the United Kingdom. It won the Nobel peace prize in 1977 and the United Nations Prize in the field of human rights in 1978.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC)
The International Rescue Committee was founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein. IRC plays a major role in helping people survive and reestablish their lives by becoming active during worst humanitarian crises throughout the world. IRC offers assistance to save and change lives of refugees who have to leave their country due to disaster or war.
At work today in over 40 countries and in 22 U.S. cities.IRC provides protection, health care and emotional support to children.
We are Child Soldiers International
Child Soldiers International is an international human rights research organization. It wants to end the use of children under the age of 18 in military recruitment. They specialize in monitoring, in depth research and analysis.
War Child International
War child international is an independent humanitarian organization, which is working across the world to help children affected by war. War Child’s goal was to advance the cause of peace through investing hope in the lives of children caught in horrors of war. It has three offices in Holland, North America and UK. They are equal partners and share the same aims and goals.
Child Soldiers International
Child Soldiers International, which was previously called the “Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers”, came into being back in 1998; it was formed by an alliance of major humanitarian and human rights organizations: Human Rights Watch; Defense for Children International; Amnesty International; International Federation Terre des Hommes; Jesuit Refugee Service; International Save the Children Alliance; World Vision International and the Quaker United Nations Office – Geneva.