Health practitioners may not be aware that some refugee children may formerly have been child soldiers.
According to Amnesty International, there are more than half a million children worldwide who have been recruited into government armed forces, paramilitaries, civil militia and a wide variety of non-state armed groups in more than 85 countries. At any one time, more than 300,000 of these children are actively fighting as soldiers with government armed forces or armed political groups.
Child soldiers may have witnessed or taken part in acts of violence, some against their own families or communities. Abducted girls are often expected to provide sexual services as well as to fight. As well as being forced to act as combatants, children may also be forced to work as work as cooks, messengers, spies and porters.
The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture can provide guidance and support for former child soldiers who may be refugees in the UK. They can also provide information and guidance to health practitioners.
Human Rights Watch provides background information on the use of child soldiers in various conflicts, including those taking place in Angola, Burma, Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon, Liberia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda.
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers works to prevent the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, to secure their demobilisation and to ensure their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. The Coalition’s website provides further information on the reintegration of child soldiers and the provision of psycho-social support.
Children - Not Soldiers: Guidelines for working with child soldiers and children associated with fighting forces, published by Save the Children, also provides information and guidance that will be useful for health practitioners.
The South East Migrant Health Network is not responsible for the content of external sites.