As Barack Obama waives the Child Soldiers Prevention Law to issue aid to four of the countries with the worst history of sending kids to war, a look at the practice and some of its victims.
Amnesty International estimates that about 250,000 children under the age of 18 are currently fighting in warzones. The practice is ancient and often highly secretive, but over the past couple of decades has been seared into the international consciousness, largely through graphic, wrenching images of young children in situations no child should ever experience. Wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia have become especially infamous for their use of child soldiers. Here a young rebel poses with his machine-gun in Kalemie, southeast Congo, on Sept. 2, 1998.ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images
Even after the conflict ends, the plight of child soldiers is not over. Attempts to reintegrate them into civil society have proven difficult, and they carry with them the haunting images burned into their mind from their time at war. Here, a young militia fighter waits to hand over bullets at a U.N. disarmament point on June 29, 2006, near Ituri District in Democratic Republic of the Congo.STUART PRICE/AFP/Getty Images
A child belonging to the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy takes a smoke break on Oct. 30, 1992, in Monrovia.ALAIN BOMMENEL/AFP/Getty Images
A teddy-bear-backpack-toting child soldier points his gun at a photographer in Monrovia, Liberia on June 27, 2003.GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images%d bloggers like this: