Duop, a sixteen-year-old from South Sudan, dropped out of school at just nine years old. He joined a rebel militia, then joined the government’s army, and after defecting, was captured, beaten, and left to die. He was found by an older man wandering outside of Juba, the nation’s capital, and taken to a large displaced persons camp.

Duop didn’t speak for weeks. He had suffered severe damage to his head, and officials believe his ability to talk may have been compromised. After weeks of searching for his family, Unicef workers were able to contact Duop’s mother, and a meeting was arranged. After six long years, a mother and her son were at last reunited.

Under international law, it is illegal to use child soldiers. However, it’s common for children to be used in militias by both rebel forces and the government militia in South Sudan. Children are subjected to horrific sites and experience things that most won’t ever see in a lifetime, let alone at such a young age.

Because he made it out alive, Duop is considered lucky. And yet, life for this young man will never be the same. His ability to communicate or hold a job is still uncertain and the look in his eyes tells of unforgotten horrors. What can be done to protect other children from facing a similar fate?

Read more here.

PC: Tyler Hicks, New York Times