The recruitment of children into armed groups has serious consequences for children and their families around the world. Since 2013, between 6,000 and 10,000 children in the Central Africa Republic have been associated with armed groups, and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, up to 30,000 children have been used in armed conflict since its outset. While the recruitment of child soldiers is escalating, reintegration of rescued or released children is very difficult due to stigma against the children who were associated.
To gain a better understanding of the drivers of recruitment, as well as the barriers and facilitators for reintegration, the IRC is conducting a two-year project funded by USAID focusing on the potential role of caregivers as facilitators and mediators to child recruitment. The goal of the study is to build on existing research and programming to (i) protect children and adolescents affected by armed recruitment and (ii) provide parents and caregivers with the tools they need to support their children’s reintegration into their families and communities.
The Strengthening Protection and Reintegration of Children (SPARC) study is currently in its first stage of conducting formative research. Over the past year, IRC staff carried out in-depth interviews with 35 adolescents and 18 caregivers residing in Ouham-Pendé, Central African Republic and 29 adolescents and 21 caregivers residing in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo to better understand the drivers of recruitment and the experiences of adolescents and their caregivers in a conflict setting. Adolescent participants were either formerly involved in armed groups or were identified as being at risk of joining based on socioeconomic criteria. Caregivers participants were all caregivers of children who were formerly involved in armed groups.
Formative findings are being collated and will be available by mid-2021. Following the end of phase 1, the IRC will begin work with the consulting firm Articolo12 on the development of a family-based intervention package to both prevent recruitment and promote reintegration of children previously associated with armed groups so that they can reach their full potential. The intervention will be piloted in CAR and DRC to assess its feasibility and applicability across conflict settings. Learning from the monitoring will be integrated into the final intervention package, which will be widely available for use starting in August 2021. The project is expected to end in September 2021.
The Airbel Impact Lab at IRC is a team of researchers, strategists and innovators committed to the accelerated design, rigorous evaluation and cost-effective scaling of the most impactful solutions supporting people affected by crisis.