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Sri Lanka: Children in the Conflict

Categories: South Asia, Sri Lanka

The involvement of Sri Lankan children in the LTTE calls for immediate action towards deterring future recruitment as well as helping children already affected by warfare. Following the 2004 tsunami and the civil war, the children of Sri Lanka have become increasingly prone to participation [1] in the military wing of the Tamil Tigers.

The tsunami resulted in the displacement of more than 550,000 persons while the nineteen year civil [2]war in Sri Lanka resulted in the displacement of 800,000 people, one third of who were children. Orphaned children often become targets of the Tamil Tigers organization [3], which is located in the area where the tsunami hit the country the hardest; thus those orphaned by the tsunami are particularly at risk for abduction and recruitment by the LTTE.

In 2004, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) [4] formulated an action plan in accordance with numerous organizations such as the Ministry of Social Welfare, Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) [5], Save the Children in Sri Lanka, and the United Nations to address the situation and improve the lives of Sri Lankan children affected by war. This plan called for the LTTE to cease all recruitment of children and release all child soldiers. This plan instructed the Sri Lankan government to take action [6] to rehabilitate the basic infrastructure within the country. Additionally, this plan called for the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to accelerate and improve their implementation [7] of programs related to children affected by war and child rights in this region. of October 31, 2004, UNICEF documented 3,516 new cases of child recruitment since the cease-fire signed in February of 2002. Only 1,206 children were formally released by the Tigers, according to UNICEF. As of November 2004, UNICEF files hold documentation of 1,395 child soldiers within the Tamil Tigers [8]. According to UNICEF [9] these numbers most likely remain low due to the fact that: Some families may be unaware of the possibility of registering, may be afraid to do so, or may have difficulty reaching a UNICEF office…this suggests that the total number of children remaining with the LTTE may be as much as four times higher than the 1,395 figure suggests.