22 May, 2008

Child Soldiers

The NYTimes reports that fewer children are being used as soldiers, according to a report by Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.

However while it's good news that the number of child soldiers is down, what's not so good is the reason:
“This downward trend is more the result of conflicts ending than the impact of initiatives to end child soldier recruitment and use,” the report concludes. “Indeed, where armed conflict does exist, child soldiers will almost certainly be involved.”

Yet even after the conflict has ended and the children are released two problems remain

1 - "Girls caught up as fighters, cooks and sex slaves are even less likely to get assistance, either because they are ashamed or because they have no weapons to turn in at the end of the war and thus are ineligible for the help due child combatants"

2 -"The people who recruit child soldiers are never prosecuted"

Blood Diamond gave us a hint of how these children are made to obey – and Invisible Children provides some insight too. Whether government conscripted (Myanmar, Chad, Congo, Somalia and Uganda, El Salvador) or rebel fighter at its core child soldiers are easy because they are young, moldable, dispensable, small, and most of the world won’t shoot at them. Who better to surround yourself with then a bunch of twelve year olds? They can fight back, are impressionable, and if there are always more. You don’t have to pay them or feed them and they won’t demand much.

We need to come behind children who have been forced into combat with rehabilitation and re-acclimation into their communities. The children need to be untaught what has become instinctive, and helped to readjust down to their age.

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© Amanda Lunday