What’s war to you? Well for most people, War is an intense armed conflict between states, governments, societies, or paramilitary groups such as mercenaries, insurgents, and militias. It means more than just conflict between group A and B, for the soldiers in the front line it means more, for the children without parents it means more, for the communities lost it means more and for Kale it meant everything.

Why was war everything to a 12-year-old boy, you might ask? Well after losing his father due to war crimes, joining the war was not on Kale’s agenda but what can you do when it was either that or your younger sister would be raped? This happens more frequently than you would think and most people don’t even care about this issue and why? Because they don’t care about things that don’t happen to them, unless it affects them they shrug it off and act like it doesn’t happen but we all know that children are very vulnerable, especially at this age and you can mold a child to be anything. Children should not be involved, recruited, or be allowed to participate in war. Global government agencies should have better policies and provide better for children affected by war.

A choice is not given to children like Kale. According to Human Rights Watch, “Thousands of children are serving as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. These boys and girls, some as young as 8 years old, serve in government forces and armed opposition groups. They may fight on the front lines, participate in suicide missions, and act as spies, messengers, or lookouts. Girls may be forced into sexual slavery. Many are abducted or recruited by force, while others join out of desperation, believing that armed groups offer their best chance for survival.” Furthermore, “The conflict in Afghanistan has been one of the world’s deadliest for children. The statistics estimate that approximately 33,000 children were killed or maimed over the past 20 years. The death toll among child soldiers can be particularly high. During a military offensive in Kunduz in 2015, for example, Human Rights Watch spoke with several families whose children, just 14 and 15, were killed in combat only weeks after the Taliban recruited them.” This shows that the amount of children lost to wars is just ridiculously high and can be prevented if only people cared more about these children.

Most people believe that once a child has been forced into war, there is no way to correct their negative views. Some believe that these damaged, scarred, scared children don’t deserve help or sympathy. Furthermore, many believe that they are evil criminals who deserve to stay in a jail cell, but these children can be reformed and overcome their struggles, even after manipulation and loss. Ishmael Beah is an ideal example of a reformed child soldier. When asked how he was able to overcome his past, Beah states, “In my opinion, I think it requires people to be there for you, to be patient, to persevere, to selflessly and compassionately help. This shows what is needed for government agencies to do, to children who are already affected by wars and that if care and patience are shown, the child will be able to feel loved again.

Not only are government agencies not doing enough, but the society isn’t either, instead of being welcomed back into society with love and open arms, the children are judged and cast away, which does even more damage, as they then feel that they don’t deserve to be saved. According to Save the Children.org, while every child’s story is different, children formerly associated with armed forces or groups face many immediate and lifelong challenges. Those who survive have most certainly been robbed of their innocence, their childhoods. These children may suffer from physical, developmental and mental health conditions. Many have missed out on years of education, severely compromising their futures. And social reintegration might be difficult, as many have lost ties to family and community. Girls in particular are likely to be stigmatized and even rejected by their community if it’s known that they‘ve been used by an armed force or armed group –and the rejection of their babies and children may be even more severe. Boys returning from conflict also risk rejection by their communities of origin.

Kale will now grow up with countless traumas, never have a childhood, PTSD flashbacks, and will never seem to fit in. We as a society can do a lot more to help children in need like Kale, like donating, fostering, volunteering and advocating for children. Global government agencies need to act now to fix this problem with the current war happening. It’s so clear that children are going to be caught in between this and we can avoid that if precautions are taken and the children who are already affected are treated with care and love.

Now how would you feel if this was your child, sibling, cousin or maybe even yourself?

Written By:

Felicia Ogundimu

Grade 8

Howard University PCS