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Adverse health effects of recruiting child soldiers
  1. Reem Abu-Hayyeh1,
  2. Guddi Singh2
  1. 1 Medact, London, UK
  2. 2 Integrated Child Health QI Fellow and Paediatric Registrar, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Reem Abu-Hayyeh; reemabuhayyeh{at}

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A report published by Medact in 2016, The recruitment of children by the UK Armed Forces: a critique from health professionals1 2 brought together for the first time evidence highlighting the increased risk of death and injury for those recruited under the age of 18. It revealed the long-term impacts of the British military’s recruitment of children under the age of 18, presented evidence linking ‘serious health concerns’ with the policy and called for a rise in the minimum recruitment age.

What is the problem?

It is impossible to know the exact figure but it is estimated that there are tens of thousands of children in armed groups around the world. The UK is one of only a handful of countries worldwide to recruit children (defined as any person under the age of 18) aged 16 into the armed forces as part of state policy and is the only country in Europe and the only permanent member of the United Nations (UN) Security Council to recruit 16-year-olds. In March 2018, the number of under-18 army recruits was 2290, making up 21% of all army recruits.3

For clinicians, the recruitment of adolescents to the military is problematic because:

  1. It denies the rights of the child, in particular the right to the ‘highest attainable standard of health’ and safeguarding from ‘physical or mental violence’, as well as the …

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