A partnership of humanitarian organizations working with community volunteers in South Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has helped demobilize thousands of children formerly associated with armed groups in the province, says the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

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On 7 January, nearly a year after conflict broke out in Libya, more than 1.2 million children returned to school, many for the first time in many months.

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A partnership of humanitarian organizations working with community volunteers in South Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has helped demobilize thousands of children formerly associated with armed groups in the province, says the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

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Reports from Afgoye town, 30 kilometres south of Mogadishu, a stronghold of Al-Shabaab, the radical Islamist group opposing the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia, indicate that militia leaders are forcing the youth to join their fighters in the jihad (holy war).

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More than 1.2 million children return to school in Libya on Saturday, 10 months after evacuating classrooms because of the fighting during the country's popular uprising.

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UNICEF is extremely concerned about the impact on children of the escalating conflict in Somalia.

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Civil society sources in Mogadishu estimate there are between 1,000 and 2,000 children in the ranks of Somalia’s Al-Shabab insurgency, some as young as nine. IRIN spoke to relatives and child protection advocates about the group’s recruitment methods.

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Five years into democracy, with the elections just a few weeks away, the majority of Congolese children continue to face a bleak future.

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When he was 11 years old, Messeh Kamara was separated from his parents. He spent months hiding in the bush and moving from village to village to escape the rebels during the 10-year conflict that ravaged Sierra Leone and which ended in 2002.

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International human rights law meanders between the vague and the hazy when it comes to its stance on the age of criminal responsibility and what, if any, punishments should be imposed on child soldiers guilty of war crimes.

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