More countries using child soldiers

Seven out of 10 countries using child soldiers receive U.S. military support, despite a U.S. law against it.

By Holly Frew and Shawna Templeton, World Vision U.S.
Published June 20, 2013 at 12:00am PDT

The past year has seen a 30-percent increase in the number of countries recruiting and using child soldiers, according to the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, just released by the U.S. Department of State.

Equally troubling is that some of those same countries receive military aid from the United States, despite the passage of the Child Soldier Prevention Act (CSPA) in 2008.

Ten countries that use child soldiers

The 2013 TIP report identifies 10 countries using child soldiers in their military operations, compared to seven in the 2012 report. Those countries include:

  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
  • Myanmar
  • Rwanda
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Yemen 

Of those 10 countries, the United States provides military aid to Chad, DRC, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, and now, to the Syrian opposition.

The TIP report notes that both the Syrian army and opposition forces are compelling children to serve as fighters, porters, servants, and even executioners.

In this region in crisis, it’s estimated that more than half of the nearly 6 million Syrian refugees and internally displaced people are children. According to the Child Soldier Initiative, the likelihood that a child will be forcibly recruited to fight in an armed group increases dramatically if that child is a refugee or internally displaced.

Violating countries getting a free pass

The CSPA was signed into law to curtail U.S. military assistance to governments that fail to demobilize and stop recruiting children into the armed forces or government-supported militias.

However, through a loophole in the law, the Obama administration has issued waivers to some violating countries. “The administration is not carrying out the law as it was intended,” says Jesse Eaves, World Vision’s policy advisor for children in crisis.

World Vision urges the Obama administration to not issue waivers to countries using child soldiers.

“The TIP report is a powerful tool for fighting human trafficking when it comes to sexual and labor exploitation, and the U.S. uses it effectively for positive change, both at home and abroad,” says Eaves. “It’s time for the U.S. government to do the same thing for children used as weapons of war.”

Two ways you can help

Pray for the protection of children who are forced to fight in wars, and pray that offending countries would stop this tragic practice. Pray that the United States would do the right thing and refuse aid to countries that use child soldiers.

Make a monthly financial pledge to help provide for the needs of children affected by war. Your monthly donation will help us provide interventions like trauma counseling, safe shelter, protection and support, and access to food, clean water, and medical care for children left devastated by war and conflict.


  • The U.S. State Department identifies 10 countries using child soldiers in their militaries.
  • The U.S. provides military aid to seven of these countries.
  • A 2008 law prohibits countries using child soldiers from receiving U.S. military aid.
  • The Obama Administration is giving violating countries a free pass.

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