There are over 300,000 children who are engaged in warfare and combat around the world according to UNICEF. This is despite 2002’s Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child which outlaws children under the age of 18 (it was formerly 15 years of age) from being a part of armed conflict. In July 2002 when the Statute of the International Criminal Court was ratified it made recruiting, training, and forcing children to fight a war crime.
Oftentimes when children have been separated from their families it is easier for rebel groups and political organizations to recruit them to fight in war. Children who become child soldiers are threatened with death and the death of their families if they don’t kill, are typically given drugs to keep them in a foggy state, and are kept in a constant state of isolation.
Since the mid-1980’s UNICEF has helped rehabilitate child soldiers and re-acclimate them back into civilian life. In many instances the release of child soldiers requires consistent and steady negotiations for their release.
On November 1, 2012 in Mogadishu, Somalia former child soldiers enlisted by Al-Shabaab were handed over to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) after their capture by forces of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
To read more about child soldiers you can read about UNICEF’s work in emergency situations on UNICEF.org.
- Small steps for child soldiers (unicef.org.au)
- Mali: Child soldiers – “My only fear is having to fight my friends.” (ionglobaltrends.com)