Alarming Numbers from Central Africa
As we begin the new year, we take notice of fresh reports coming out of the Central African Republic (CAR) on the increase of child soldiers being recruited into the armed conflict during the last calendar year.
Both this story from the Reuters Foundation and this one from Humanosphere, tell the concern of the year-long conflict in CAR and the effects to children in general:
[quote]Children as young as eight are forced to fight, carry supplies, and perform other frontline and support roles. They often suffer physical and mental abuse by militants, and some have been ordered to kill. Having witnessed or committed killings and other violent crimes, children associated with armed groups are highly likely to suffer fear, anxiety, depression, grief, and insecurity, and many require specialized psychological support.”[/quote]
– Save the Children
Estimates of between 6 to 10 thousand children have been drawn into the conflict as armed soldiers, but the impact to children in general (those left homeless, faced with disruption to their schooling and in need of emergency assistance) is estimated at an astounding 2 – 3 million.
Sourced for the Reuters story was a representative from Save the Children, Julie Bodin. Bodin is uniquely positioned to comment on the situation in CAR, as she is the child protection manager working directly with those being impacted by the fighting and violence in the country.
We couldn’t be more in agreement with Bodin in the “need for long term goals of supporting children once they have been released from armed groups to stop them from rejoining. Extreme poverty, lack of education and jobs all create a huge reservoir of potential new recruits.” Our own project work in northern Africa, especially in developing the National Platform for Child Soldier Reintegration and Prevention in Africa, is based on the same longer-term goals of how best to reintroduce former combatants into civil society to give them opportunities that become more attractive than rejoining the fight as armed soldiers. Whether in Uganda, or in the Central African Republic, or in Colombia, where we continue to address the same issues, the assistance needed to reverse the numbers of child soldiers is universal.
[quote]It is important to support youth and children to pass from a culture of war and conflict to a culture of peace. Child-friendly spaces and youth networks are urgently needed to rebuild these children’s lives, as well as institutions, such as schools, which will help them thrive.”[/quote]
– Julie Bodin of Save the Children