War is an everyday reality for millions of children. They are killed, disabled or orphaned by civil war, guerrilla insurgency, or ethnic cleansing. They become refugees or displaced persons, often separated from their families. Many die or suffer from starvation, malnutrition, or lack of medical care. Many children are traumatized by witnessing brutal deaths and by being surrounded by violence, fear and hardship.
The following are examples of campaigns against children becoming victims of war around the world:
Rawan: “I left Guéréda because people were killing members of our family and pillaging our goods. My father was killed by the Zaghawa. I left, alone, two years ago, when I was ten-and-a-half years old. I did not talk about it with my mother or my uncles when I left. I went to El-Geneina in Sudan and joined the MNR” [Chadian armed group].
Hazam: “I haven’t seen my family for three years but they know I am here in N’Djamena now. Some other children who were in the rebellion with me are here in centre as well. At my age I must continue school.”
Read more accounts of former and current child soldiers from Darfur and Chad in Chad Must End the Recruitment and Use of Children in Armed Conflict.
“When we arrived [at the recruit holding center] the soldiers asked us, ‘Would you like to join the army or would you like to go home?’ Many of us said we’d like to go home. Then they took the thirty or forty of us who’d said that, stripped us naked, put us in the lockup and gave us just a tiny bit of rice. . .”– Than Aung, recruited into the Burma army in 1997 at age fourteen.
Read more about the Brave Sprouts and the recruitment of child soldiers in Burma in My Gun was as Tall as Me: Child Soldiers in Burma (Human Rights Watch Report, October 2002).
Meet Speak Truth to Power’s Human Rights Defenders fighting to ensure children’s rights:
Abubacar Sultan, Mozambique spent years flying to remote hamlets in war-torn Mozambique to rescue child soldiers and children of war, and rehabilitate and reunite them with relatives.
Kek Galabru, Cambodia is one of the foremost human rights defenders in Cambodia. She works on due process, democratization and children’s rights.
“I saw 10 to 20 people shot, mostly old people who couldn’t walk fast. They shot my uncle in the head and killed him.” –nine-year-old Liberian girl
Read Children at Both Ends of the Gun, a report that reveals the full extent of children’s involvement in the 30 or so armed conflicts raging around the world.