Hundreds of thousands of children are used as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. Many children are abducted and beaten into submission. Others join military groups to escape poverty, to defend their communities, out of a feeling of revenge or for other reasons. In many conflicts children take direct part in combat. However, their role is not limited to fighting. Many girls and boys start out in support functions that also entail great risk and hardship. One of the common tasks assigned to children is to serve as porters, often carrying heavy loads, including ammunition or injured soldiers. Some children act as lookouts, messengers, cooks or other routine duties. Girls are particularly vulnerable. They are often forced to serve as sexual slaves. Moreover, the use of children for acts of terror, including as suicide bombers, has emerged as a phenomenon of modern warfare. Regardless of how children are recruited and of their roles, child soldiers are victims, whose participation in conflict bears serious implications for their physical and emotional well-being. They are commonly subject to abuse and most of them witness death, killing, and sexual violence. Many are forced to perpetrate these atrocities and some suffer serious long-term psychological consequences. The reintegration of these children into civilian life is a complex process.
Annual Report of the UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict to the Human Rights Council, UN (2016)
"We Can Die Too." Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in South Sudan, Human Rights Watch (2015)
"Lesson 3" Issues in Conflict: Child Soldiers, War Child (2015)
"I Was a Child Soldier. Now I'm Pushing for Support for Others Like Me." The Guardian (2016)
"Ending the Recruitment of Children in Armed Conflict." Child Solider Briefing, UNICEF (2016)