Today, Save the Children launched its new report Stop the War on Children: A crisis of recruitment. The report is based on a new mapping of children at risk of being recruited or used in armed conflict conducted at PRIO, as well an update of the yearly estimation of children living in conflict zones. The findings are alarming. In 2020, approximately 337 million children, or more than 1 in 8 children, were living in a conflict zone in which one or more actors recruited children. This is the highest recorded number of children at risk of being recruited by armed actors.
PRIO's research defines children at risk of recruitment as: "Children (under 18) who live within 50 km of one or more conflict events with at least one conflict actor reported to have recruited children in a particular year". In addition to the record number of children at risk, the study identified a worrisome upward trend. The estimates suggest that the risk of recruitment has steadily increased over the past 30 years.
In terms of geographical concentration, the mapping shows that Asia had the highest number of children at risk of recruitment in 2020, while the Middle East had the highest share. The countries with the highest share of child recruitment compared to the total national child population in 2020 were Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen. In these countries, more than 90 % of the child population was at risk of being recruited for armed conflict.
To reduce the problem of recruiting children for armed conflict, the researchers call for more systematic knowledge of the root causes of child recruitment, as well as more systematic and nuanced data on who is recruited where, when, and by whom. To deal with the problem, they recommend that policymakers strengthen the social protective fabrics around children, strengthen children's agency, create safe spaces for children, discourage recruitment of children through naming and shaming by local and national actors, the media, and the international community, and reintegrate children who have been used and recruited by armed actors into the community.
For more information, read Save the Children's full report, Stop the War on Children: A crisis of recruitment.
For a shorter overview, read the PRIO Conflict Trends Policy Brief 'Children at Risk of Being Recruited for Armed Conflict, 1990–2020', or the blog post '1 in 8 Children Are at Risk of Being Recruited by Armed Actors'.
For a short update of the annual mapping of children affected by armed conflict, read the PRIO Conflict Trends Policy Brief 'Children Affected by Armed Conflict, 1990–2020'.