Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fewer Child Soldiers, Many Still Brutally Vulnerable

LONDON (Reuters) - The end of brutal wars in West Africa and global efforts to halt recruitment have cut the number of child soldiers, but experts say vulnerable boys and girls are still forced into battle from Latin American to Asia.

Armed with Kalashnikovs and machetes, drunken, drugged and traumatized children were at the heart of wars in the 1990s in Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo marked by atrocities committed by young killing machines.

Those wars are now largely over and the United Nations children's fund UNICEF estimates some 250,000 child soldiers remain active in the world -- down from earlier estimates of 300,000.

But other experts say that figure is little more than conjecture given the impossibility of getting hard data on the ground.

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