From Cradle to War
Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of children are recruited into government armed forces, paramilitaries, civil militia and a variety of other armed groups.
Under international law, the participation of children under 18 in armed conflict is generally prohibited, and the recruitment and use of children under 15 is a war crime. Yet worldwide, hundreds of thousands of children are recruited into government armed forces, paramilitaries, civil militia and a variety of other armed groups. Often they are abducted at school, on the streets or at home. Others enlist "voluntarily", usually because they see few alternatives.
Such children are robbed of their childhood and exposed to terrible dangers and to psychological and physical suffering. They are placed in combat situations, used as spies, messengers, porters, servants or to lay or clear landmines. Girls in particular are at risk of rape and sexual abuse.
Though exact numbers of child soldiers today are difficult to discern, the UN estimates that some 300,000 children are involved in more than 30 conflicts worldwide today. Both the UN campaign Children, Not Soldiers and Child Soldiers International document and research child soldiers and progress toward ending the use of child soldiers.