The number of children used in armed conflicts around the world has doubled since 2012, with at least 30,000 cases of recruitment verified in this period, as reported by Child Soldiers International, which has warned of an increasing exploitation of girls and women. of an increase in cases of sexual exploitation.
The NGO has analyzed the annual reports published by the UN between 2012 and 2017 on Children and Armed Conflicts on the occasion of the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, which is celebrated on February 12. Thus, it has found that there were a total of 29,128 verified cases of recruitment in 17 countries and an upward trend in this period. While in 2012 there were 3,159 cases in 12 countries, in 2017-according to the data published in 2018-there were 8,185 verified cases, representing an increase of 159%.
The open conflicts in the Middle East as well as others in Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR) and other places “are leaving children increasingly exposed to recruitment,” denounced the organization. . Thus, they are used as combatants and in checkpoints, as informants, to plunder and as domestic and sexual slaves.
On the other hand, it has found an increasing exploitation of girls. Thus, in 2017 there were 893 cases of girls linked to groups and armed forces, four times more than the 216 recorded in 2012.
The fact that they are used mainly for support work and that they are kept away from the front, means that they are not seen as associated to the conflict either by the groups themselves or by the communities. As a result, according to Child Soldiers International, girls are often left out of official statistics and go unnoticed by protection organizations, hence the suspicion that their number would be much higher.
More sexual violence
Likewise, a 40% increase in sexual violence has been detected, with 951 cases or incidents verified in the last report compared to 679 in 2012. In the report published in 2018, cases of girls as young as 7 years old were raped in Burma. or in Somalia when they were going to gather firewood, while in South Sudan thirteen girls were victims of a group rape by armed actors.
“The data are worrisome but they only represent the tip of the iceberg”, the NGO stressed, clarifying that the improvement in the verification methods is partially responsible for the increase, although the data is not absolute due to the difficulties of collecting them in the zones in conflict.
Thus, Child Soldiers International has taken the opportunity to “ask all actors to take urgent action to stop these amazing trends.” “From the affected communities passing through the central governments and the UN headquarters, resources must be prioritized to facilitate the protection and liberation of children” but it is also crucial, the NGO has defended, “to give sustainable support to the liberated ones”.
Support for reintegration
According to estimates, of the more than 10,000 children released in 2017, only 70 percent received support, but given that many escape on their own from the armed groups and security forces that keep them enrolled, the percentage would be lower.
For example, according to UNICEF data provided to the NGO, between 2015 and 2018 a total of 17,141 child soldiers were released in the DRC, although only 8,043 children – including 2,394 girls – have participated in the support programs of the agency. UN since January 2015, which highlights the challenges in reintegrating these children in their communities.
In this regard, Child Soldiers International has demanded that measures be taken to “improve prevention and assistance at the community level”. It has also warned that there are no unique solutions for all cases, but that both families and communities must be taken into account, as this will be “more effective in preventing future recruitments and in giving former child soldiers the opportunity to move on with their lives. “
The recruitment of minors is one of the most desperate Human Rights issues of our time
“The recruitment of minors is one of the most desperate Human Rights issues of our time,” said Child Soldiers International director Isabelle Guitard, who has warned that the data “only flush the surface of the true scale of child exploitation by armed actors around the world. “
“You can not turn a blind eye.”
“It is critical that the world does not turn a blind eye to this continued abuse and that resources expand locally and internationally and combine to combat it more effectively,” said Guitard.
For her part, the special representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virgina Gamba, stressed that “the reintegration of former child soldiers in their communities requires long-term commitment and broad support from the international community. “
In this regard, he recalled that his office with UNICEF have launched “a global Coalition for the reintegration of former child soldiers” with which it seeks to “address the current gaps and needs in the programs” on the subject. “We want to explore how to guarantee that every child released will receive the best possible support wherever they are,” said Gamba.
During 2018, the UN facilitated the release of more than 900 child soldiers in South Sudan, while the Nigerian Joint Civil Force fighting Boko Haram freed 833 children last October, while in December 56 boys were released by police. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of militias led by Syrian Kurdish forces and supported by the United States.