Child Soldiers: South Sudan's Devastating Impact of War
"Before the war my childhood was filled with friendships and laughter. The war took that all away. Even my parents have been taken by war."
As part of my long-term documentary work examining different forms of human trafficking, this project focuses on child exploitation as a result of war. In conflict zones around the world, children are exploited as child soldiers, forced into domestic servitude, and even taken as sex slaves. In an effort to document this issue I traveled to Imvepi refugee settlement in Uganda, where over 123,000 refugees are fleeing the civil war in South Sudan and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. I wanted to explore the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the ways we see children affected by exploitation due to war. Through personal narrative, portraits, and real-time photo capture, the project documents survivors' lives as refugees in Imvepi as they learn, heal, and try to survive the devastating impact of war.
"Child Soldiers" is a portrait series of four survivors who suffered prolonged and repeated trauma as a result of conflict displacement child trafficking. The women reflect on their experiences, the way they have been impacted, and the challenges of reintegration into society in the Imvepi Refugee Settlement in Northern Uganda. The project aims to advocate for increased access to psychosocial support for the survivors.
In 2013, conflict broke out in South Sudan, leading to a complex and dangerous situation of armed conflict, economic decline, disease and hunger. Both sides of the conflict are responsible for abducting thousands of women and children to be used as weapons of war. Although exact figures are hard to determine because of insecurity, UNICEF estimates that 19,000 children in South Sudan have been abducted into armed forces used as armed soldiers, sentries, informants, spies, domestics, laborers, and sex slaves.