By: Sharanya Ramesh
12 year old Joseph had big dreams. He lived in a rural area in sierra Leone in Africa and he lived with his father who was dying of a dangerous disease. He wanted to grow up and become a doctor and cure the disease which had handicapped his father. But one day an armed group came and took him away to become a child solider in the government armed force. He was made to shoot people and carry guns and when he tried to say no they killed his father. So he killed and on one fateful day he was killed in a clash between armed forces. This is the fate of more than a million children around the globe who are becoming what is known as a child solider. In over 20 countries of the world children are direct participants in war. Denied a childhood and often subjected to horrific violence an estimated two hundred to three hundred thousand children are serving as soldiers in both rebel groups and government armed forces in current armed conflicts. These child sliders often participate in all aspects of contemporary warfare. They wield AK47S and M16 on the front lines of combat, serve as human mine detectors, participate in suicide missions and carry supplies and work as lookouts spies or messengers. With new weapons that are light weight and easy to fire children are more easily armed with less traing than before. Worldwide more than half a million children under the age of 18 are taken as these child soliders. Often recruited or abducted to join these armies many of these children, some less than the age of 10 are subjected to horror that some of us cannot even imagine. They have taken part in acts of unbelievable violence, often against their own families or community. Some children are subjected to horrific acts both psychologically and physically. What is more they are often encouraged to commit grievous acts which they are often unable to comprehend. Physically vulnerable and easily intimidated children typically make obedient child soliders. Many others who show their defiance are often compelled to follow actions under the threat of death. Others join armed forces out of desperation. As society breaks down during conflict and the children are left with no access to school and who are often separated from their family members believe that armed forces are their best chances at survival. Others seek escape from poverty or join military forces to avenge family members who have been killed.
Children are killed and wounded at far higher rates than their adult comrades. Those who survive often suffer trauma, injury abuse and psychological scarring from the violence and brutality they experience. Some are rejected by their families and communities. most lose the opportunity to acquire an education, job skills or any hope for the future.
The use of children to fight adult’s wars is not limited to a single country or continent but has become a worldwide problem. The problem is most critical in Africa and Asia though children are also used as soldiers by government and armed forces in many countries in America, Europe and the Middle East. However the problem is not limited to developing countries. Industrialized countries facing personal shortfalls have also increased efforts to attract young recruits. Many children maybe between the ages of say 8 to 10 are made to guard godowns with weapons and are ordered to kill at first sight. What is more horrific is that many of the children involved in this believe that what they are doing is right. They feel no sadness in shooting their own family members because the leaders of these organizations brainwash these children in to believing that what they are doing is right.
All of us talk about terrorists who cause havoc to this world. But we fail to see these small children who are forced into believing that violence is the only way out. These children grow up not knowing the joy of learning or the fun of playing. They grow up in a world filled with fear and bombs and the certainty of knowing that they may not see tomorrow because they fight cold wars in their todays. These children are those who are supposed to contribute to our world in a better way. Instead they fight cold wars for someone else some not even knowing that what they are doing is wrong. Is this what we call a developed world? The answers to my question are all there in front of us. We can choose to ignore it. But then what is the point in calling ourselves the blessed and the fortunate. The world has now started to take notice of this global issue and has already started to solve this problem. Let us hope that in the years to come fewer children are affected by this global menace and have thus a chance to live a life worthy of them.