|A boy holds a handful of empty bullet casings he found while playing in the street in Birao,in CAR.|
For the next three days, high-level officials, child advocates and UNICEF experts are meeting in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, for talks on ending one of the most critical issues facing children in Central Africa — forced recruitment into armed groups.
This week’s photo is a stark reminder of the omnipresence of violence throughout the region. While this boy in the Central African Republic (CAR) may just be collecting casings left strewn on the ground of his destroyed village, other children are being collected themselves and made to fight in one of the dozens of conflicts that continue to victimize women and children.
In CAR alone, an estimated 1,500 children are or have been associated with armed groups. Since 2007, approximately 1,150 children associated with armed groups have been demobilized and reintegrated into their communities and families.
UNICEF is working to gain further commitment from the governments of Chad, CAR and Sudan, among others, to end child recruitment and to engage in social reinsertion programs contributing to stability and peace in Central Africa.
As part of the conference in N’Djamena, delegates will hear testimonies from former child soldiers, including Ishmael Beah, UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected By War, and rap artist Emmanuel Jal.
The Conference follows the announcement of a two year campaign calling for the universal ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on protection for children in armed conflict.