Western militaries confront child soldiers threat
There are now as many as 300,000 children under 18 years old presently serving as combatants in 40 per cent of the world's armed organisations (both non-state and state linked) and they fight in almost 75 per cent of the world's conflicts. An additional set of as many as 500,000 children serve in armed forces not presently at war.
While questions of differing cultural standards of maturity are sometimes raised, the youth in question cover a range considered underage both according to international law and by almost every state in its own legislation. Some 80 per cent of those conflicts where children are present include fighters under the age of 15 and 18 per cent of the world's armed organisations have used children of 12 years and under. The average age of child soldiers found by separate studies in Southeast Asia and Central Africa was just under 13.
The practice also differs from the past by including girls as well as boys.