Child Soldier Relief

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The mission of Child Soldier Relief Foundation (CSR), a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt organization designated by the Internal Revenue Code, is to advocate on behalf of child soldiers by serving as a central repository of information on all topics relating to the topic of child soldiers.

DDR – Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs need long term support and funding

Let’s highlight this problem in a little more detail.  Best practices reporting from organizations like the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers has outlined much of the problem – mostly stemming from reliance on short-term solutions that limit the true needs of the former child soldiers.  One-year programs, funded by major relief organizations and the United Nations, on the plus side, can address the immediate needs of the children, first by rescuing them, and then providing immediate medical support and short-term counseling for pressing psychological issues such as PSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).  Most of these programs, unfortunately, are disassembled after one or two years, leaving the children without the long term support and skill-sets required to reenter society as a productive young adult.  Instead, many of these children, with no other options and either no family or unsupportive family members, head back to the street and to violence. 

Longer term programs are needed that provide educational resources, skill-set building, career and technical training and longer term counseling.  Many problems exhibited by the children manifest themselves years after they are released or rescued, and they are often unable to cope without supportive structures.

According to the Coalition from this article:

…years of accumulated best practice on releasing children from fighting forces and assisting their rehabilitation and reintegration is being overlooked by those involved in designing and implementing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs. Sustained funding for the long-term support of former child soldiers is also rarely available. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, delayed, unpredictable and short-term funding, combined with poor planning and mismanagement of the DDR program, meant that some 14,000 former child soldiers were excluded from reintegration support.

Also, many disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs are targeted towards boys who were fighting on the front line, not girl child soldiers or child soldiers serving in more support roles.  From the report:

…the overwhelming majority of girls soldiers are not identified by and do not register in official DDR programs. In Liberia, where the DDR program ended in late 2004, only just over a quarter of the 11,000 girls known to have been associated with fighting forces registered in the official DDR program.

More on DDR here.

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