An estimated 300,000 child soldiers are currently fighting in conflicts around the world, according to UNICEF. These children participate in all aspects of warfare, serving as armed combatants, sex slaves, spies, messengers, minesweepers and even suicide bombers.
Children are sought after because they are obedient, daring and abundant. Many child soldiers are abducted or recruited by force; others join as an escape from poverty, for the perceived sense of belonging and protection, or to avenge violence against family members. For some children, armed groups are a source of food and their best hope for survival.
The map below looks at conflicts where child soldiers — defined by UNICEF as boys or girls under the age of 18 — have served in recent years.