Throughout the world today, according to a United Nations report, there are an estimated 300,000 children under the age of 18 actively participating in armed conflicts. The problem is most widespread in Africa and Asia, although there are some countries in Europe and the Americas which tolerate children working as soldiers. Probally the worst offender is Sierra Leone. Most of these minors are between the ages of 15 and 18, although many are recruited as low as 10, and there have been records of some as young as 7.

International law states that it is illegal to for people under the age of 15 to serve in the military, to enforce conscription of people under the age of 18, and sets severe restrictions on the capacity in which those volunteers under 18 can serve. But of course, these restrictions are being ignored. Armed forces are ignoring them for a variety of reasons. In long term conflicts, they are finding that it is getting harder to recruit adults, because a lot of people of age who support their cause have already joined, and died. They also use minors because it is easy to do so. Children are for the most part more susceptible to indoctrination, and are still quick learners. Weapons technology such as the ultra-cheap AK-47, which is light enough for almost any minor to use, make it easy to equip minors and train them in easy to use weaponry. But, the main reason that people are still using child soldiers is because no one in the international community is attempting to stop them. The only people really complaining about this topic is the United Nations (half-heartedly at that) and Amnesty International, and a few other non-governmental organization.

According to the Child Soldiers Global Report 2004, there are indications that child soldiers (defined in the report as "any person under the age of 18 who is a member of or attached to government armed forces or any other regular or irregular armed force or armed political group, whether or not an armed conflict exists") are currently recruited or in use by the following countries:

  1. Afghanistan*
    • The first American casualty in the War on Terror was killed here by a 14-year old sniper.
  2. Algeria
  3. Angola*
    • 36 percent of all Angolan children have either served as soldiers or accompanied troops into combat.
  4. Armenia
  5. Australia
    • As of the 2004 report, Australia had 250 minors in its armed forces, only 12 of which were fully trained.
  6. Austria
  7. Azerbaijan
  8. Bahrain
  9. Bangladesh
  10. Barbados
  11. Belarus
  12. Bolivia
  13. Botswana
  14. Brazil
  15. Brunei Darussalam
  16. Burkina Faso
  17. Burundi*
    • Up to 14,000 children have participated in battle, some as young as twelve.
  18. Cameroon
  19. Canada
    • As of the 2004 report, Canada had "About 1,000 young people aged between 16 and 19 ... serving in the regular armed forces, with a further 5,000 in the reserves." The report also notes that, in Canada, "Under-18s may not be deployed in armed conflict under the 1985 National Defence Act."
  20. Cape Verde
  21. Central African Republic*
  22. Chad*
  23. Chile
  24. China
  25. Colombia*
    • More than 11,000 children are currently being used as soldiers.
  26. Comoros
  27. Democratic Republic of the Congo*
    • Between 30,000 - 50,000 child soldiers are currently involved in the conflict here, comprising one third of all combatants.
  28. Republic of Congo*
  29. Cote d'Ivoire*
    • Currently has 3,000 estimated child soldiers.
  30. Cuba
  31. Cyprus
  32. Dominican Republic
  33. El Salvador
    • During its civil war, this country had at one point approximately 48,000 child soldiers, which would have composed 80 percent of its military.
  34. Eritrea
  35. Estonia
  36. Ethiopia
  37. France
    • The voluntary recruitment age in this country is 17.
  38. Germany
    • The voluntary recruitment age in this country is 17.
  39. Ghana
  40. Guinea*
  41. Guinea-Bissau
  42. Haiti
  43. Hungary
  44. India*
  45. Indonesia*
  46. Iran*
  47. Iraq*
    • During the war that ended Saddam's regime, child soldiers were encountered by American troops in the cities of Nasariya, Karbala, and Kirkuk.
  48. Ireland
  49. Israel*
  50. Italy
    • The voluntary recruitment age in this country is 17, although 17-year olds are prohibited from participating in battle.
  51. Jamaica
  52. Jordan
  53. Kenya
  54. Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  55. Republic of Korea
  56. Kyrgyzstan
  57. Lao People's Democratic Republic
  58. Lebanon
  59. Lesotho
  60. Liberia*
  61. Libya
  62. Luxembourg
  63. Madagascar
  64. Malawi
  65. Malaysia
  66. Maldives
  67. Malta
  68. Mauritania
  69. Mexico
  70. Morocco
  71. Mozambique
  72. Myanmar*
    • Has the highest number of child soldiers in the world, 75,000.
  73. Nepal*
  74. Netherlands
  75. New Zealand
  76. Nigeria
  77. Occupied Palestinian Territories*
  78. Pakistan
  79. Papua New Guinea
  80. Paraguay
  81. Peru
  82. Phillippines*
    • The New People's Army is thought to have around 1,000 child soldiers
  83. Poland
  84. Russian Federation*
  85. Rwanda*
    • The 1994 genocide here had thousands of child participants
  86. San Marino
  87. Sao Tome and Principe
  88. Serbia and Montenegro
  89. Seychelles
  90. Sierra Leone*
    • The RUF is known for their enthusiastic recruitment and use of children in battle.
  91. Singapore
  92. Slovenia
  93. Solomon Islands
  94. Somalia*
    • Boys 14-18 regularly fight in warlord militias
  95. Sri Lanka*
    • The LTTE has become infamous for their victorious 1996 attack on the Multavi military complex, which was essentially comprised of wave after wave of "Baby Brigade" fighters.
  96. Sudan*
    • Allegedly, child soldiers in the Sudan People's Liberation Army are so well-disciplined that they are capable of laying effective ambushes for attack helicopters.
  97. Tajikistan
  98. United Republic of Tanzania
  99. Trinidad and Tobago
  100. Turkmenistan
  101. Uganda*
  102. Ukraine
  103. United Arab Emirates
  104. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
    • This country has a minimum recruitment age of 16, with 6,000-7,000 under-18s serving in their armed forces as of 2004. According to the report, "The government said it would no longer deploy under-18s in hostilities although it reserved the right to do so in some circumstances."
  105. United States of America
    • At least 62 17 year old soldiers participated in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2003 and 2004. The United States recieves approximately 10,000 17-year olds into its armed forces each year.
  106. Vietnam
  107. Yemen*
  108. Zambia
  109. Zimbabwe
* - Indicates that child soldiers are involved in active combat in this country.

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004
Children at War by P.W. Singer
Armies of the Young: Child Soldiers in War and Terrorism by David M. Rosen
Young Soldiers: Why They Choose to Fight by Rachel Brett and Irma Specht

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