In January, Congress received over 14 thousand emails, phone calls, and tweets from World Vision advocates asking the U.S. government to make ending violence against children in all forms, including trafficking, child labor, and children fighting in armed conflict, a priority. Today, February 15, some of those members who received messages will be attending a panel in Washington, D.C. to recognize the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, also known as Red Hand Day, marked this past weekend on February 12. Members of Congress, advocates for child protection, subject matter experts, and others will gather and learn more about the problem of children in armed conflict. Presidents from multiple non-governmental organizations signed a letter to members of Congress with a call to take action to prevent the recruitment and use of children in combat. You can read the letter here. This is a great start toward prioritizing issues that affect the safety of children and ending violence against children. World Vision staff will be sharing from the event #WVadvocacy.

Children have been forced to take an active part in at least 21 conflicts since 2001. These children are unable to have a childhood, get the education they deserve, have a nurturing community, and most of all, be protected from violence. Today tens of thousands of children serve in armed forces and armed groups. Girls are not only vulnerable to being used in combat roles but also as laborers and as child brides. It is estimated that Africa accounts for 40 percent (120 thousand children) of the world’s child soldiers.

Geoffrey was one of the 120 thousand children forced to be a child soldier. Now, after seven years of being with the Lord’s Resistance Army, he is 19 and reunited with his family in Uganda thanks to a World Vision program that rescues and protects vulnerable children.

Through World Vision’s “Empowering Children as Peacebuilders” approach, communities are educated on the risks of child soldier recruitment and mobilized to protect children. In the Central African Republic, this project has worked with over 3 thousand vulnerable kids, including those formerly associated with armed groups.

However, more must be done to ensure that children like Geoffrey are protected before they are forced into combat, and the U.S. government can help through policy change. Today, join the international community in recognizing the need to protect children from conflict and violence. Contact your member of Congress today to ask them to help end violence against children. Act now.

Photo: Geoffrey, 19, was reunited with his family in Uganda after 7 years captivity with the Lord’s Resistance Army thanks to World Vision programs that rescue and protect abducted children. © 2012 World Vision/ photo by Gary Dowd

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