Canadian NGO Calls on UN to Take Action on Child Soldiers



    TORONTO, Feb. 8 /CNW/ - In response to the new United Nations report
"Children in Armed Conflict", Plan Canada urges the Security Council to do
more than simply debate the issue when it meets in New York in a special
session on February 12. Urgent action is needed to defuse a ticking time bomb
of traumatized and alienated child soldiers, often kidnapped by armed groups
and brainwashed to become brutal killers.
    "These children face even more hardships when they return home," said
Rosemary McCarney, President and CEO Plan Canada. "Not only do they have to
live with the stigma of what they've done, but they have to deal with
communities and even family members that are often terrified of them. "
    The Secretary General's report (published January 30) highlights
conflicts in countries such as Uganda, Sudan, Colombia, Sri Lanka and Sierra
Leone and others - all countries where Plan works. Findings include:

    
    -   child victims of conflict - both girls and boys - endure unimaginable
        experiences that leave them traumatized and vulnerable to further
        abuse;
    -   children in refuge camps are at particular risk of abduction, as well
        as rape and other forms of physical and mental abuse;
    -   not enough is being done to give former child soldiers real hope for
        the future;
    -   the systematic and deliberate attacks on schoolchildren, teachers and
        school buildings have escalated in certain countries.
    

    Plan Canada calls on the international community to provide additional
funding for projects to help former child soldiers reintegrate into society.
More must also be done to protect children from abduction by armed groups.
Solutions require real actions. Plan has now moved into three provinces in
Northern Uganda to rebuild communities destroyed after 20 years of vicious
civil war. In addition to rebuilding basic infrastructure, Plan's work also
focuses on conflict resolution and the reintegration of child soldiers and
abducted girls back into society.
    "Even a simple thing like training a young person to drive a truck gives
them hope that they can once again become a valuable part of their community,"
said McCarney.
    Rosemary McCarney has traveled to Northern Uganda and to Sudan, including
Darfur, and can provide valuable insight into the plight of child soldiers and
their communities.

    Plan Canada is an international child-centered development agency that
operates in 66 countries across the world, with no political or religious
affiliations.

    Note to editors: Plan Canada has b-roll video footage of interviews with
    former child soldiers available upon request. A copy of the Secretary
    General's report on "Children in Armed Conflict" is available via email.





For further information:

For further information: Richard Chassie, Richard.chassie@sympatico.ca,
The Idea Workshop Ltd., Mobile: (416) 705-5167; Steven Theobald,
stheobald@plancanada.ca, Plan Canada, Cell/BB (416) 568-6525

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