The United Nations (UN) on Friday called for immediate action to end the recruitment of minors into armed and rebel groups.
The Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Miss Leila Zerrougui, made this call in a statement issued in Abuja.
The UN made the appeal to mark this year’s International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers.
Zerrougui stated that some developed countries of the world abhor the enlisting of children into armed groups, adding that it was a grave problem.
“While Governments of the world have made progress to recognise children have no place in their armies, the recruitment of child soldiers is still a huge problem, especially with armed groups.
“Out of 59 parties to conflict identified by the Secretary-General for grave violations against children, 57 are named because they are recruiting and using child soldiers,” she stated.
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Yoka Brandt, also warned that countries already involved in the recruitment of children into armed groups should cease from such.
Brandt noted that it was a way of distracting the children from the primary objectives of their lives.
“The release of all children from armed groups must take place without delay and we cannot wait for peace to help children caught in the midst of war.
“Investing in ways to keep children away from the frontlines, including through education and economic support is absolutely critical to their future and future of their societies.
“Ten thousand of boys and girls are associated with armed forces and armed groups in conflicts in over 20 countries around the world.
“Many have been victims of, witness to and forced participants in acts of unspeakable brutality,” he said.
The deputy executive director recalled that in some countries of the world, frantic efforts have been made to end the recruitment of minors into armed groups.
He said that in Afghanistan, despite progress to end the recruitment and use of children in national security forces, children continue to be recruited by parties to conflict such as the Haqqani Network and the Taliban.
In the most extreme cases, children have been used as suicide bombers, to make weapons and transport explosives.
Brandt also recalled the case of Central African Republic where boys and girls as young as eight years old were recruited and used by all parties to the conflict to take direct part in inter-ethnic and religious violence.
“The United Nations documented new cases of recruitment of children by multiple armed groups operating in the eastern part of the country.
“The children, in some cases as young as 10, were recruited and used as combatants, or in support functions such as porters and cooks.
“Girls were reportedly used as sex slaves or were victims of other forms of sexual violence.
“In Iraq and Syria, the advances by ISIL and the proliferation of armed groups have made children even more vulnerable to recruitment.
“Children as young as 12, are undergoing military training and have been used as informants, to patrol, to man checkpoints and to guard strategic locations.
“In Nigeria throughout 2014, the armed conflict in the north-eastern part of the country was one of the world’s deadliest for children.
“There was a dramatic rise in violence, growing recruitment and use of children, sometimes very young,” said the executive deputy director.
He, however, assured that UNICEF would work with partners to support children once they are released from armed groups.
He stated that this includes reunifying them with their families and providing them with healthcare, basic necessities and psychological support as well as access to education and training programmes.
Brandt praised the efforts of international assistance towards the gradual release of approximately 3,000 children from the South Sudan Democratic Army (SSDA).
He said that more than 500 children have been released in the past two weeks and are receiving support to return to civilian life and further releases were expected over the next month.