Thousands of little girls are being abducted by rebels in Uganda, a missionary told Fides news Service yesterday. Comboni Father Tarcisio Pazzaglia, who works in in northern Uganda, runs a home for 260 boys and girls, some as young as seven, who have escaped the Lord's Resistance Army. Fr Tarcisio said: "Our children, boys and girls, were returned to their families but since they can't look after them many come to us. We provide them with a home and food and make sure they go to school from primary school through to high school," He said: "Little girls are abducted at the age of seven or eight and used as servants, made to cook and fetch firewood and water. They are not usually abused sexually but once they reach the age of puberty they are taken as wives for the military leaders and they live in very sad conditions. "Girls who escape say they were hunted and suffered hunger and thirst for days. As each leader usually takes three or four wives, the older ones are jealous of these children and often treat them very badly - like slaves. "Those who manage to escape and reach their village are usually welcomed although they are looked at with some suspicion and many wonder if they have AIDS" Fr Tarcisio added. In a recent report: "Forgotten Casualties of War: Girls in Armed Conflict" humanitarian organisation Save the Children said that while the problem of child soldiers is known, up to now the fact that many girls are made to take part in war was unknown. Save the Children says that 40% of the estimated 300,000 child soldiers enlisted by armed groups are girls. The countries affected by this crime are Uganda, Congo and Sierra Leone, where from the age of 8 little girls are taken away from their families and made to work for armed groups, some a combatants, others as cooks and helpers. In Uganda alone an estimated 6,500 girls have been abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army and another 12,000 have been made to join armed groups in Democratic Congo. In Sri Lanka there are an estimated 21,500 girls involved in the fighting. Source: FIDES/Save the Children
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