I’ve written a little bit on the subject of child soldiers in my Africa United movie review and in some other posts in the past, and today I was reminded about it once again by Ishmael Beah. I had to write something after seeing this video; it was just too touching and disturbing at once. A big shout out to Ishmael for sharing it on Facebook and keeping this major international issue fresh in people’s minds. If you ever wondered how the release of child soldiers is negotiated and whether or not these kinds of efforts are ever successful, you should watch this.
And here a some quick facts about child soldiers that will make you think.
1. If you think the use of child soldiers has been decreasing over the years – think again. In the last 13 years, the use of child soldiers has increased significantly and reached almost every armed conflict in the world.
2. Girls make up 10% to 30% of all underage soldiers in different areas, and are used for fighting and sexual exploitation.
3. Some of the recruited children are under 10 years old. Instances of children as young as 8 have been recorded.
4. In poor and war-torn areas, some children are forcefully recruited, while others volunteer, mistakenly believing that it will help them provide for their families. The recruitment levels are particularly high in places where children have no access to education.
5. A lot of child soldiers are used for combat purposes, often sent into the most high-risk areas, such as front lines and mine fields. They are usually seen as a “disposable” force by their seniors and sent to clear the way for “more valuable” older soldiers.
6. Child soldiers are often forced to kill their own families, neighbors and friends, as a way of proving their worthiness and loyalty to the military group, and ensuring that they have no home to go back to and no community to reintegrate into.
6. Advances in technology used to produce arms made it even easier for children to carry and operate guns, and further contributed to increase in recruitment.
7. Forceful recruitment of children under 18 for participation in armed conflicts is prohibited by law in more than 150 countries, but that doesn’t stop various military groups from doing so.
8. In many of the conflict areas, the majority of the grownups have been killed in wars, and children make up most of the population and present the biggest recruitment pool for armed groups. Children are also particularly vulnerable to brainwashing and manipulation because of their emotional and physical immaturity. They don’t eat as much as grownups, don’t have as high of a sense of danger and don’t get paid.
9. It is hard to estimate the total amount of child soldiers used around the world, but just the recorded cases added up to more than 300,000 in at least 20 countries as of 2012. The actual numbers are likely to be a lot higher.
10. Since 1998, more than 100,000 child soldiers have been released from various military groups and returned to their communities. UNICEF has played a major role in the process.