Children in Armed Conflict: Both Victims and Perpetrators

Ein afghanischer Junge lugt zwischen zwei Soldaten der Friedenstruppe hervor. Copyright:

Unlike in the past, now­a­days civi­lians – espe­cial­ly chil­dren – are the main casual­ties of vio­lent con­flict. Around two million chil­dren have lost their lives in armed con­flict over the last ten years, and the number of chil­dren in­jured is many times higher. Of the 5.8 million per­sons forced to flee their homes world­wide, some 40 per cent are chil­dren or young people under the age of 18.

Children are all too often forced to become soldiers. It is esti­ma­ted that some 250,000 minors are being deployed as combatants and ancillary labour by armies and armed militia worldwide; many are sexually abused as well, or forced to commit atrocities. Child soldiers are deprived of any chance of normal development. Deeply traumatised, they often suffer psychological problems for the rest of their lives.

Many child soldiers have grown up in war. They have no expe­rience of life other than in war, and know no way of resolving conflicts other than through violence. For many of them, a return to their own communities is impossible, for they are regarded not as victims but as perpetrators. This rejection drives many of these children back into the arms of the militia or into crime.

The situation of girls poses a particular problem. In the armies and rebel groups, they are often the victims of sexual violence. Girls require special help to escape social isolation and return to normal life.

Germany supports the reintegration of child soldiers, for this is a key prerequisite for successful reconciliation and reconstruction processes in society as a whole.

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