“Stop small arms export”

Child soldiers in Zimbabwe © Aaron Ufumeli

Aid agencies call for increased international action against abuse of children as soldiers. In particular, they are pressing for a halt to exports of small arms – the deadliest type of weaponry.

Caritas International, Bread for the World, and the German Alliance for Child Soldiers made corresponding statements ahead of this Sunday's worldwide day of action against the use of children as soldiers.

According to United Nations estimates, there are currently some 250.000 children and young people have been used as soldiers in more than 20 countries, including South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Middle East. The boys and girls would be forced to fight or abused as spies, load carriers or sex slaves.

Successes against the use of child soldiers

According to Caritas international in Freiburg, aid organizations have had great successes in recent years on behalf of child soldiers. For example, he said, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, since 2004, more than 32.000 children and young people to be freed from army and militia units.

"A quarter of these young people received medical-psychological assistance at Caritas' five child-soldier centers and were then helped by Caritas staff to reintegrate into their families and village communities," the head of Caritas international, Oliver Muller, announced in Freiburg, Germany.

Humanitarian aid could change the fate of these children for the better in many individual cases, but "a fundamental solution can only be achieved through consistent action by politics and the judiciary," Muller said. This could include the expansion of criminal prosecution as well as an export ban on small arms.

Small arms "the deadliest type of weapon"

terre des hommes, Kindernothilfe and World Vision Germany, together with Bread for the World, also called on the German government to completely stop the export of small arms and ammunition and to create an arms export law with legally binding and enforceable rejection criteria.

The aid organizations presented a study according to which Germany supplies small arms, "the deadliest type of weapon," to many conflict regions – including those where child soldiers are used, such as the Middle East, India, Pakistan or the Philippines," said Ralf Willinger, child rights expert at terre des hommes and spokesman for the German Alliance for Child Soldiers.

Although the Federal Government is pointed out for years by child and human right organizations and the UN committee for the rights of the child to these abuses, it sees so far apparently no need for action, criticized the alliance.

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Christina Cherry
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