by Vincent Desrus
Today, 250,000 child soldiers are still in the hands of armed groups and forces in the world.
A scourge that continues
It is difficult to estimate the number of child soldiers. The numbers are constantly changing. If thousands of children have been demobilized from armed forces in which they fought over the last five years with the end of armed conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Angola and Sierra Leone, thousands of other have been involved in new conflicts, such as in Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan and Chad. In countries such as Colombia, Burma (Myanmar) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), there has been little change and thousands of children continue to be used as soldiers.
In Africa. The African continent has the largest number of child soldiers. Child soldiers are used in the context of armed conflict in Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Somalia and Sudan. The problem is particularly acute on the continent, where it has been estimated mid-2004, almost 100,000 children, some as young as nine years old were involved in armed conflict
In Asia, thousands of children associated with fighting forces in active conflict situations or cease-fire. However, due to the refusal of governments to allow access to conflict zones, it is impossible to collect information on the number of children involved. The case of Burma (Myanmar) is unique in the region as the only country where government armed forces forcibly recruit and use children aged 12 to 18 years. There are also child soldiers in Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines, where they are primarily associated with armed opposition groups, factions or clans, or groups composed of ethnic or religious minorities. In Sri Lanka, hundreds of children, perhaps thousands, are still in the ranks of the main opposition and forced recruitment continues.
In the Middle East, reports indicate that child soldiers are used in Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as tribal groups in Yemen.
In Latin America, nearly 14,000 children were involved in the British armed political groups, and paramilitary groups backed by the army.
In Europe, people under 18 are involved in various armed groups in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation, but their number is impossible to determine because of the almost total censorship on the media and advocacy organizations human rights work in the region.