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UNICEF home The State of the World's Children
2002 Photo © UNICEF

Leadership

 

Children changing destiny in Liberia

Liberia still bears the scars of the civil war that lasted from 1989 to 1997. One hundred and fifty thousand people were killed, 1 million people internally displaced and 666,000 Liberians were driven from the country. Perhaps most horrifying, however, 15,000 children – some as young as age six – were trained as soldiers. With so many lives stolen and the country's infrastructure destroyed, there seemed little hope for the children of Liberia.

© G. Russell Hill

A group of determined girls in Liberia

Yet, somehow, the country has become stronger and its people more determined. There is no better illustration than the children themselves, who were once used as tools for destruction but who now work diligently to improve their lot.

Sixteen-year-old Solomon is one example of a youth determined to change his destiny. Once a member of one of the most feared groups of boy soldiers, Solomon now participates in a UNICEF-supported reintegration and life skills programme. Struggling to overcome his tragic past, he explains, "I want to get the bad, bad things out of my heart." Asked what he hopes for the future, he replies in a soft voice, "I want to go back to school. I want to be born again as a child."

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