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World Vision’s work with children affected by armed conflict
World Vision strives to address the immediate and long-term needs of children affected by war. This includes protecting children from conscription as well as helping them escape exploitation and reintegrate them into their communities. Specific interventions include:
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- Providing protective Child-Friendly Spaces in conflict zones where children can safely interact with adults and other children, lowering their risk of conscription;
- Raising awareness in communities about the need to protect children from conscription;
- Assessing the physical and emotional condition of former child soldiers and providing adequate medical attention and psychosocial support;
- Addressing the specific needs of girls who have been affected by armed conflict (i.e. sexual abuse and the consequences including pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases);
- Coordinating with other agencies for family tracing and reunification;
- Helping communities prepare for child reintegration and follow-up on children who have been reintegrated;
- Providing education and skills training opportunities for former child soldiers.
Children of war centers
World Vision has established children of war centers to receive and counsel former child soldiers. Centers and other programs benefiting youth affected by war are located in northern Uganda, south Sudan, Sierra Leon, Liberia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The children of war centers provide formerly abducted children with:
- Medical treatment
- Psychosocial counseling
- Vocational training
- Spiritual nurture
- HIV and AIDS education
The centers also facilitate a smooth reunion of the children with their families. Since 1995, the Children of War Center in Uganda alone has served more than 15,000 children and adults.
World Vision also works within affected communities to help families and community members understand what has happened to these children and encourage reconciliation as children return home.
We believe that the protection of all children from armed conflict is essential, and address this concern through:
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- Humanitarian assistance to children and their families during and after conflict;
- Child-focused community development;
- Peacebuilding activities for children and adults;
- Advocacy to prevent the enticement and abduction of children by armed groups.
Advocacy to combat child soldier use
World Vision believes that U.S. tax dollars should never be used to support the exploitation of children as soldiers. Moreover, U.S. weapons should never end up in the hands of children overseas.
To bolster this message, Joseph Mettimano, vice president of advocacy and government relations for World Vision, testified in April 2007 before the Senate Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law on “Casualties of War: Child Soldiers and the Law
During his testimony, Mettimano called on the U.S. government to commit to leading an international effort to pressure countries to stop supporting the use of children in armed conflict.
Citing World Vision’s experience working with child soldiers in places like northern Uganda, Mettimano said, “Organizations like ours can stop the bleeding and help heal physical and emotional wounds when the children are in our care, but we alone can’t stop the wars or change the policies of the governments or groups that use children in combat.”
“World leaders such as the U.S. can and should play a more engaged role internationally to end this state-sanctioned abuse of children through diplomatic efforts, funding programs and assisting peace negotiations,” Mettimano added. Back to top
The Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2007
A bill introduced in April 2007 in the U.S. Senate would threaten key U.S. military assistance for governments that use child soldiers. World Vision urges support for the legislation to encourage governments to prohibit, demobilize and rehabilitate child soldiers from national forces and government-supported militias.
Sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and co-sponsored by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), and 34 other Senators, The Child Soldier Prevention Act (S.1175) would require governments to release the children within their ranks – or risk losing key U.S. military assistance.
“This bill creates strong incentives for foreign governments to end any involvement in the use of children as soldiers,” Mettimano said.