Child Soldiers: A Tragic Form of Human Trafficking

Child soldiers, one of the most heartbreaking manifestations of human trafficking, remain a distressing reality in numerous conflict zones worldwide. Like all forms of human trafficking, it’s a flagrant violation of human rights. It forces children into combat roles that radically disrupt their childhood and imprint profound psychological and physical scars. Continue reading to learn more about this despicable practice, the framework surrounding the issues, and the efforts to combat this tragedy.


Understanding Human Trafficking and Child Soldiers

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) defines child soldiers as any person below 18 years of age recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity. According to The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), between 2005 and 2020, more than 90,000 children were recruited for conflict. While authorities believe the number is higher, the organization could only verify 90,000.


The Recruitment and Exploitation of Child Soldiers

Often, children are recruited through abduction, coercion, or manipulation. They are forced into combat roles, made to serve as porters, spies, and messengers, and sometimes used for sexual exploitation.

The manipulation often involves normalizing violence and indoctrination into a group’s ideology. In many instances, children are forcibly addicted to drugs to suppress their emotions and render them more compliant, drastically altering the child’s sense of self and future.


The Impact on Children

The repercussions for children forced into conflict are catastrophic, with many suffering from physical injury, psychological trauma, and a loss of educational opportunities. In addition, many are desensitized to violence, while others grapple with guilt, shame, and the haunting memories of the atrocities they were forced to commit and witness. 

Like most survivors of human trafficking, child soldiers face a long, arduous road to recovery. Rehabilitation programs include mental health support, skills training, and efforts to reintegrate these children into society. Unfortunately, reintegrating former child soldiers into society can be a complicated process. They often face stigma and discrimination, and their lack of education and vocational skills can make it difficult for them to secure employment.

Several organizations, including War Child, Child Soldiers International, Save the Children, and The Orphan’s Hands, actively work to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers, rescue those already in the ranks, and assist in their recovery and reintegration. However, the scale of the problem demands more than these organizations can deliver. A broader international effort and policy reform and enforcement are imperative to eradicate the tragic trafficking of child soldiers. 


The Global Impact

UNICEF estimates that thousands of boys and girls under 18 are used in armed conflicts worldwide. Countries most affected by the scourge of child soldiers include Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Yemen. The consequences are devastating for the children involved and the societies. 


The International Legal Framework

The recruitment of child soldiers infringes on several international laws and conventions. Most notably, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, adopted by the United Nations in 2000, specifically prohibits the recruitment and use of children under 18 in hostilities. Despite this international legal framework, enforcement remains a significant challenge, and many countries and non-state actors continue to recruit and use child soldiers. 


Help Us Provide Hope 

Imagine if your young, innocent child, grandchild, niece, or nephew were abducted, coerced, or manipulated to serve as a child soldier. No one wants to think of their young loved ones participating in a violent conflict that can rob them of their youth, future, and dreams.

Human trafficking is an overwhelming issue. One person alone can’t stop it, but together we can make a difference. Your contributions help our committed staff and volunteers work 365 days a year to fight human trafficking and support survivors. Every donation can change the life of someone victimized by human trafficking. No matter the size, every effort can deliver help and hope to the most vulnerable. 

The generosity of our supporters has helped us provide a safe life for people once victims of trafficking, including shelter, food, and medical care for those in need. Together, we can change and save lives!