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Healthline Connects

It's About Time: Chad Finally Demobilises Child Soldiers

As a mother, a nurse, and a woman, few reports have caused me more anguish than those of children as young as seven years old, dragged off to fight in wars they can't possibly understand. It is Safe Kids Worldwide Month to promote prevention of accidental injury. This is to promote awareness of 1 million children who die needlessly each year due to preventable accidental deaths and many more who are permanently disabled. More children age 1-14 die from accidents than any other cause. This is a worthy goal for most children who grow up under the auspices of caring adult guardians.

Sadly, there are too many children around the world with no one to look after them, and they at the mercy of adults who exploit them. The world got a little better today, with the news that the government of Chad has signed a deal with the United Nation's Children's Fund (UNICEF) to begin demobilising children out of its national army. For the longest time, the Chad government denied UNICEF's charges. UNICEF estimates that 300,000 children under age 18 are involved in 30 armed conflicts around the world today. They are used to cook, to fight, as messengers and as sex slaves. They are abducted, stolen, sold, usually live in combat zones, have limited education and may lack other options for survival. In conflict zones characterized by total chaos and lack of government structure, like Somalia, it is difficult for UNICEF and other agencies to figure out how many vulnerable children are being used.

The people of Chad have their work cut out for them, but admitting they have a problem and getting NGO's involved to help kids and families reunite and heal is a huge step for the country, the continent, and the world.

Thank you, matthew john berry for use of your photo of children in Gulu, Uganda.
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