Global footprints logo


Home Class Activities for TeachersGet ActiveAround the worldIssuesFeedback
Label
 
link pointer
link pointer
link pointer
link pointer
link pointer
link pointer
link pointer
link pointer
link pointer
link pointer
link pointer
link pointer
Waste
link pointer
Water
link pointer
Women
link pointer Digging deeper
link pointer Youth talk
link pointer Video clips

Child soldiers

 

What is happening?

About 300,000 children are used by armies around the world in 36 different war zones. They are recruited by both by governments and by military opposition forces to perform different tasks. They are sent into combat, they are trained to use explosives and weapons, they are made to work as spies, messengers, porters, cooks and are sometimes sexually abused and exploited. Sometimes they are forced to kill their own family members, friends or neighbours. In 2004 wars ended in Afghanistan, Angola and Sierra Leone and 40,000 children were demobilized, but in the same year more than 25,000 were drawn into conflicts in Cote d’Ivoire and Sudan alone.


Why do children fight?

Children are often forced to join military groups by adult soldiers. Sometimes they are kidnapped. Many children are desperately poor and choose to become soldiers in order to find food, clothing, shelter and protection. Others are impressed by the seeming glamour of war, the opportunity to use real guns and the accompanying sense of power. Some children see it as a chance to get revenge against those they hold responsible for the deaths of their families and friends. Some orphaned or isolated children see the possibility of companionship through belonging to the army.


What happens to them?

Many children undergo terrible experiences. Because they are young they are easily bullied, intimidated and brainwashed by older soldiers. They often witness terrible acts or are forced to kill or injure people themselves. Some modern weapons are so light that even a 10 year-old can carry them and be sent into battle. In some countries guns are cheaper than books. Children who are captured have been killed, tortured or imprisoned by governments as well as by armed opposition groups. There are now many projects which have been set up to help children who have undergone these ordeals. Children can receive care, education and training and hopefully be able to return to everyday life. Often communities as well have to be educated and supported otherwise they will reject the returning children. Many international organisations such as UNICEF, Save the Children and Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, are working towards improving the lives of former child soldiers.


What is being done to change the situation?

All around the world people have been working to try to stop this terrible situation.
Governments have slowly come around to recognising that something must be done internationally. In May 2000 the UN adopted an amendment to the Convention of the Rights of the Child which outlaws the use of children in armed conflict and strengthens their legal protection. So far 142 countries have signed up to the agreement. Action by the UN and other international organisations is definitely part of the solution but governments must also tackle the huge world wide problems of poverty and violence which create the conditions in which so many children’s lives are devastated.

 

 

 

 

home
active
kids
class
issues
world
feedback

   
 
Project originally funded by EU and DfID with support from Tower Hamlets LEA