Up to 200,000 children have been forced into armed service by government troops and rebel groups in 20 countries throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, according to news reports.
This ranges from conscription of teenage boys into the Peruvian army, as reported in LivinginPeru.com, to grim stories of children used in terrorist operations. In one such incident, Inter Press Service reports that Iraqi insurgents placed explosives on a young girl and detonated her by remote control.
The worst abuses are found in Myanmar, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo; insurgent fighters in Afghanistan, Burundi, Nepal, the Philippines, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Colombia also habitually conscript child soldiers.
The Daily Star of Lebanon also reported various Palestinian groups are still using children as soldiers.
Yet even when they are rescued from the fighting, child soldiers still are overlooked or forgotten.
In May, hundreds of former child soldiers in a Burundi demobilization camp rioted over poor living conditions and delays in getting them back home.
Producers of the documentary film “Invisible Children,” which focuses on Ugandan children conscripted by the Lord’s Resistance Army, organized a protest event in 100 cities worldwide seeking to raise awareness of the issue.
For the LRA, children are often both the “weapon and the victim”; the long-running insurgent group is notorious for not just forcing children into armed service, but also using them to target other children in terror campaigns.
“Recruiters of child soldiers defy U.N. pressure”
Inter Press Service, April 29, 2009
“Taking the next step”
Human Rights Watch, April 20, 2009
Invisible Children (U.S. Documentary)
“Invisible children lead protest for Uganda’s child soldiers”
The Miami Herald, May 3, 2009
“UN chief cites reports of factions in Lebanon using child soldiers”
The Lebanon Daily Star, April 25, 2009
“U.N.’s ban calls for action against child violence”
Agence France-Press, May 1, 2009
“Burundi child soldiers stage mutiny”
Agence France-Press, May 5, 2009
“Authorities reveal more cases of underage soldiers in Peru’s army”
LivinginPeru.com, April 16, 2009