War Today - Child Soldiers Essay Example
300,000 - that is the number of active child soldiers in the world today (Flows). No matter the age or ability, people are taken into war to fight for someone else’s values. Many children are being recruited as soldiers and are eventually becoming the perpetrators of violence. There are devastating impacts of war on all people involved. These effects are painful to anyone exposed to them, and it takes a very long time to heal, if at all. The impacts of the Civil War in Sierra Leone, both physical and mental, are damaging to children, families, and communities.
War is not only a dissention for everyone involved, but it also is the root cause of internal destruction. Ishmael Beah was just a young boy when he was exposed to the madness of war. He saw people dying no matter where he was, and there was simply no escaping the blood and agony of those who were left to die. As stated in A Long Way Gone:
I [Ishmael Beah] screamed at the top of my lungs and began to cry as loudly as I could, punching and kicking with all my might into the weak walls that continued to burn. I had lost my sense of touch. My hands and feet punched and kicked the burning walls, but I couldn’t feel a thing. Gasemu and the rest of the other boys began pulling me away from the house. I kept kicking and punching as they dragged me out. (Beah 95)
Beah’s internal destruction from the Civil War in Sierra Leone was becoming external. He could no longer handle his emotions. Ishmael became numb to the pain while trying to overcome his frustrations; showing how the impacts of the war were damaging to him.
The war in Sierra Leone forces children to grow up too fast. Most child soldiers do not learn the essential social skills all of humanity needs. Being placed in the war as a young adult will negatively affect them in their later life once the children realize what they have missed out on. A young boy named M.G. told New York Times, “the commander brought 10 people from my village, men, women and children. He assembled everyone and told the prisoners they were going to die”. He also said,
I knew them all. The children were my friends. I pleaded with the commander. He told me: 'Kill them. If you don't, I will kill you.' He put his gun to my head. My body began to shake. I fired, and kept firing. I watched them fall. Their limbs were twitching. It took them a long time to die -- about three minutes. Then I vomited. It was the first time I killed. (Goodwin)
Everyday, there are children who get their childhoods stolen from them. Along with that, their hopes and dreams for their futures get broken. People are often confronted with stories of young children who leave their homes throughout the night and escape to urban centers just to avoid being abducted again. Kids should be in their beds sleeping at night, but instead, they are being forced to runway in order to survive. They had to mature and take care of themselves starting in adolescence. In 1996, Graça Machel, former wife of Nelson Mandela, interviewed child soldiers and pointed out that:
Children living in violent, terrorized environments experience such horrors as destruction of their homes, and the death of parents, siblings, neighbours and friends. Many live in circumstances where they make critical survival decisions to hide under deceased remains of others, to kill or be killed, and often live through situations where they believe they will die. (Muller)
These child soldiers are being forced to accomplish activities, sometimes life-or-death, that are usually reserved for adults. Forcing children to grow up too fast results in the inability to perform certain tasks and to have basic knowledge. It also permanently “scars” them making them unable to fully recover.
The loss of trust was very apparent throughout stories of child soldiers, most specifically, through Ishmael Beah. Communities were breaking apart and everyone was more independent due to the fear the people had for one another. As Ishmael Beah mentioned,
Some people tried to hurt us to protect themselves, their families and communities. Because of these things, we decided to bypass villages by walking through nearby bushes. This way we would be safe and avoid causing chaos. This was one of the consequences of the civil war. People stopped trusting each other and every stranger became an enemy. Even people who knew you became extremely careful about how they related or spoke to you. (37)
The unexpected breakout of the war in Sierra Leone accounts for the loss of trust that is seen. Any person that would have passed by children and families would seem threatening and dangerous to the community. People always assume the worst of someone due to their inability to trust. The mistrust seen during the war changes the children, families, and communities and potentially will remain even post-war.
The detrimental effects of the Sierra Leone Civil War on communities is seen after the war ended in 2002. The best way to revitalize society after a major war is for everyone to work together. Having said that, many people believe that teamwork within a community is superfluous, but in reality, they are too untrusting of one another to work collaboratively. Rachel Glennerster, the Chief Economist at the Department for International Development, noted that, “much less has been done to help repair the trust that helps a community function, or to relieve the psychological burden of those who suffered and those who committed atrocities”. So far, many people are avoiding interaction because they are untrusting of each other. Local communities urgently need to work together to reverse the negative affects Sierra Leone that had on them.
Child soldiers cannot manage the gruesome venture of the war in Sierra Leone, so they often succumb to suicide. According to the World Health Organization, “In 2017, suicide deaths in Sierra Leone reached 990 or 1.21% of total deaths. The age adjusted death rate is 21.71 per 100,000 of population ranks Sierra Leone #11 in the world”. After the Sierra Leone Civil War, suicide rates rapidly increased due to the feeling of worthlessness many children endured. The war made people question why they were alive and what they did to deserve a second chance. People are so profoundly changed by the war that they will never be the same again.
Throughout hearing the experiences of the former soldiers, it is shown how war affects children, families, and communities, both mentally and physically. The internal destruction, pre-maturing of children, and loss of trust are the ways in which the everlasting effects of war are seen. Now, communities are working together to rebuild their societies and regain trust. Families are being reunited and people are once again growing closer together. Although the progression of children and families working towards a better community with help from UNICEF is clearly being shown, many people are still taking time to fully recover from the damages that have been done due to the civil war.