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'Innocents Lost': Saving Child Soliders

Child soldier on the streets of Monrovia, Liberia, June 2003. A U.N. mission to Liberia is trying to persuade an estimated 40,000 child fighters to swap their weapons for school books and training.
Georges Gobet/Getty Images
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Child soldier on the streets of Monrovia, Liberia, June 2003. A U.N. mission to Liberia is trying to persuade an estimated 40,000 child fighters to swap their weapons for school books and training.

It was one of those rare photos that captures the tragedy that spans continents and generations: An angry gunman poses on a street in the embattled Liberian capital of Monrovia, aiming his weapon at a camera, threatening to shoot. Only this soldier is wearing a pink teddy bear backpack, and couldn't be more than 10 or 11 years old.

The picture by photojournalist Georges Gobet made it clear that despite good intentions, child soldiers are still very much a fact of life in countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka and through a wide swath of Africa. The U.S. government fears these soldiers could become a real threat to Africa's stability as they grow into adults who know nothing but violence and the power of a gun.

Journalist Jimmie Briggs, author of Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War, is also a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations in its efforts to combat the recruitment of child soldiers. He talks with Farai Chideya about why military and paramilitary commanders use children to fight.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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