DEFINITION

A child soldier is any person under eighteen years of age who is “part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity including, but not limited to, combatants, cooks, porters, messengers and anyone accompanying such groups.” [1] This includes those “recruited for forced sexual purposes and/or forced marriage.” [2]

 

FACTS

  • The number of child soldiers worldwide is estimated to be 250,000.[3] The youngest child soldiers are as young as seven years old.[4]

  • Today, child soldiers are fighting in at least 21 countries, including Colombia, Myanmar (also known as Burma) and Afghanistan.  In most of these cases, there have been no arrest warrants, no trials and no convictions for those responsible.[5]

  • Most child soldiers are in Africa. It’s estimated that there are over 100,000 in Uganda, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan.[6]

  • An estimated 30,000 children have been abducted for the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa.[7]

  • On the Thailand-Burma border, eleven year old boys are threatened or coerced by recruiters to join the army.[8]

  • In Afghanistan, the Taliban have stepped up the use of children for suicide attacks.[9]

  • In Somalia, the Islamic armed group Shabab has increasingly targeted children for forced recruitment, often abducting children as young as ten years old from their homes or schools.[10]