UNICEF Calls for an End to Forced Recruitment of Child Soldiers in Democratic Republic of Congo
Thursday, February 18, 2010 4:00 PM

18 February 2010

On February 12, the International Day against the use of Child Soldiers, UNICEF issued a press statement calling for the release of all children forcedly recruited into armed forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly young girls, who are forced to be combatants or labor and sex slaves and suffer from violence and rape.

Only 20 percent of the children that receive care and support from UNICEF and its partners are girls. Although the number of girls released from armed groups and receiving support from UNICEF programs has increased in 2009, UNICEF has indicated that more work must be done to release the extremely vulnerable girls and reunify them with their families.

“Children, boys or girls, should be with their family and not in a military environment,” said Pierrette Vu Thi, UNICEF Representative in DRC. “All the children forcedly recruited in armed forces and groups, and especially young girls, are traumatized by their experience and need special attention. It is essential that they all live the life of a child.” (UNICEF)

Since 2004 and the launch of the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration program (DDR), 36,000 children have been released from forced recruitment, with 6,000 children demobilized in Eastern DRC in 2009 during the integration process of armed groups into FARDC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo).

A law passed by the DRC government on January 10, 2009 prohibiting the recruitment of children into armed forces is an important step towards eliminating the problem, but as long as children remain enrolled in armed groups, further measures must be taken. UNICEF and their partners have begun to use mobile teams and transit centers to negotiate with chiefs and commandants and advocate for the release of children, with a special attention to young girls.

Compiled from: “Forced Recruitment of Child Soldiers in DRC,” UNICEF (12 February 2010).