International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Child Soldiers

Community reintegration of former child soldiers promotes psychosocial healing

Widespread use of children in armed conflict is one of the most atrocious trends in wars today. An estimated 300,000 boys and girls are currently trained for combat or used as porters, spies or sex slaves around the world. They are compelled to become instruments of war, to kill or be killed, with devastating effects on their physical, emotional and social development.

IRC provides immediate protection, health care and critical emotional support to children who have been demobilized or have escaped from armed forces. Our extensive experience in working with former child soldiers has taught us that they will recover when communities fully accept the child back, and help him or her assume a positive role and identity. IRC supports cultural approaches that promote healing and reconciliation. We strengthen local schools so that there are places for former child soldiers and other out-of-school children. We help secure vocational training opportunities. IRC promotes community child protection committees and other local partners to provide a sustainable system of support to vulnerable children.

IRC currently has programs for former child soldiers in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Uganda.

In northern Uganda, at least 20,000 children have been abducted by the rebel group the LRA during a ruthless 18 year civil war. Thousands have managed to escape. When found, the children are usually in a state of shock and in need of immediate medical and psychological attention. They also need to find and rejoin their families and begin the slow process of healing, recovery and community reintegration. IRC Programs are particularly focusing on helping the girls who were abducted through access to education and vocational training.

For further information on IRC Child & Youth programs, please contact us at children@theIRC.org