Binkies and Bombs: Stop the Infamous Use of Child Soldiers

The Problem

As of today, there are a documented 300,000 children under the age of 18 serving in over 33 government forces or 
armed rebel groups. Some are as young as six years old. Though some children volunteer themselves into the army, drawn by dreams of valor, bravery, and excitement, the majority of children are kidnapped, forced into battle with threats of murder to themselves and their family if they do not comply. They are not allowed to say goodbye to their family. Children are especially targeted by army recruiters because they are emotionally and physically immature, vulnerable and easily manipulated into the violence and promises of the glory and honor of war, too young or weak to resist and understand. After a mere two weeks of harsh training, in which the children are malnourished and susceptible to disease and infection, they are thrown into battle. They are told to destroy entire villages, unarmed or not, where they can then commence to kill, torture, and rape the soldiers and civilians in the enemy town or, on some occasions, their own families and villages. Advances in machinery and weaponry have led to the rise of child soldiers. Simple to operate and carry, easily accessible, and lightweight, weapons can now be used as efficiently by kids as adults. Children living in poor communities are most at risk. Along with orphans and refugees, poor children are promised money, which almost always is never given, and honor if they fight. Both girls and boys are abducted and used as child soldiers, in El Salvador, Ethiopia, and Uganda alone almost one-third of the child soldiers are female. And while children may feel safe in the close-knit armed units, that is not the case, especially for girls. Raped or given to military commanders as wives and concubines, girl child soldiers are targeted just as much, if not more, than boys. Once in the armed forces, children may be used as cooks, guards, messengers, or spies. Children are also generally used for dangerous missions, seen as expendable. Sent into minefields ahead of older troops, moved to the frontline, or placed on suicide missions, child soldiers are seen as far less worthy than their older comrades.

Plan of Action

It is extremely difficult, or even impossible, to regulate and end the use of child soldiers. However, there is a way to help former child soldiers are they are released from the armed forces. Organizations such as Africa Recover, Amnesty International, and Educate a Child Soldier at http://www.helpchildsoldiers.org/ have programs intended to educate former child soldiers and communities who are at risk of having their children abducted for such a use. $100 gives a child an elementary and middle school level education, $200 gives a child a high school education, and $500 gives a child a college education.

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