Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Here's a story we found On a boy name Abu :

“I don’t know how old I am,” said Abu Bakar Bangura, a slight and serious young boy from the West African country of Sierra Leone. “I was very young when I was taken from my family,” he explained. Abu, as he is known, is one of the 10,000 children who were abducted from their homes and forced to become soldiers by both the pro-government and the rebel forces during the 10-year civil war that tore his country apart.

An estimated 300,000 children like Abu have been kidnapped or conscripted to fight as a child soldiers in wars around the world. In some ways, they are the lucky ones. They survived.

Abu's Story 

After being kidnapped by the rebel group, Abu was drugged, beaten, and forced to commit terrible atrocities. Instead of a childhood of innocence and affection, he lived a life of violence and fear. He was a fast learner and survived by following orders. “In the war, I was trying not to make wicked things. That’s why God saved me,” he said.

Although a UN-sponsored peace agreement called for the disarmament and release of all child soldiers in 1999, the fighting in Sierra Leone did not stop until 2001. Only then could these children put down their weapons and return to their homes and their childhoods. But many had forgotten how to be children and part of a family. Fighting and fending for themselves was all that they remembered. Those who could remember where they were from were often afraid to return for fear of rejection by their families.

The United Nations, its agency, UNICEF, and partners such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC) have been working to reunite former child soldiers with their families.

Actor Michael Douglas, a United Nations Messenger of Peace, met Abu while at the Child Protection Care Center in Kono in the eastern district of Sierra Leone. At its highest capacity, the Center housed as many as 166 former child soldiers, but when Michael met Abu, the Center had only a few occupants. Since the war ended, Abu had been in a French-speaking refugee camp, had lived on his own, and had now been at the Center for two months. But Abu’s time was running out, if his family wasn’t found soon, he would be placed in foster care, an option that he was not looking forward to.

"Abu has lost a lot; he doesn't know what it is to have someone take care of him," explained Samuel T. Kamanda, known as T-Boy, the IRC’s assistant program manager for the Child Protection Care Center.

Although T-Boy had already visited several villages trying to track down Abu’s family without success, he decided to follow one of Abu’s last leads - a village in another region of Sierra Leone. Michael Douglas accompanied T-Boy and Abu on the quest. After flying in on a UN helicopter, they walked for miles in a tiring search for Abu’s village and family.

Finally, after walking under the hot sun, they came to a village, and suddenly, while waiting for the village chief, Abu heard a cry of joy and surprise. It was his mother. Abu recognized her immediately and rushed to her crying with relief and excitement.

“It’s incredible to see Abu in his mother’s arms. I’m overwhelmed,” said Douglas. “I never expected to see Abu reunited with his family.”

What’s Next for Abu?

Today Abu is living with his family, but he carries deep emotional scars. It may take time for Abu to feel at home and to deal with the memories of a haunting past. But Abu is not alone. The IRC, with the help of the UN, has successfully reunited over 1,000 children and adolescents with their families. We can only hope that their struggles will be easier with their families there to support them.

What Can You Do?

Start by learning more about children in combat. The UNDP can give you background information about conflicts that enlist children in combat. UNICEF offers statistics about children in combat in countries around the world. Other organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International offer ways for individuals to help combat child soldiering.

UNICEF also works with partners, such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC), to provide many of these children with shelter, counseling, and skills training as they wait to be reunited with their families. There is always a risk, however, that as they grow into adulthood they will remain alienated and prone to violence. But with access to schooling and positive community influence, they have a chance to rebuild their lives.

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