Internationally banned but still a mass phenomenon – not only in Africa: child soldiers. Children and adolescents are usually much easier to recruit than adults. They are often threatened with violence in order to make them join a military faction. In Somalia, the various militias have a total number of approx. 70,000 combatants. The number of children among these soldiers is growing. According to UNICEF, the militias sometimes even recruit 9-year-olds.
The affected children are usually recruited from poor families. The war has separated many of them from their parents and now they’re desperately looking for a substitute. Some may be looking for revenge because the enemy has killed their father, mother or siblings. Having a gun gives the boys power and social recognition they would otherwise never get. The mental and physical damage that they suffer will probably make them recruit and incite new young fighters themselves at some point in the future. To his distress, 23-year-old Canadian photographer Ed Ou found that this phenomenon can be seen among many young adults who were shaped by the civil war that began in 1991.
Curriculum Vitae: Ed Ou
He had an early start to his career as a teenager covering the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and the fall of the Islamic Courts in Mogadishu, Somalia while he was studying Arabic and Hebrew in the Middle East. He worked for Reuters and the Associated Press, covering a wide range of news stories based out of Jerusalem. After university, he moved to Kazakhstan, where he documented the tragic consequences of Soviet nuclear weapons testing in Semipalatinsk. Since then, Ed has focused his lens on Somalia, where he has been following refugees as they flee the country by boat to Yemen. This story has taken him all over the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. Recently, an investigative report he photographed about child soldiers fighting for the Somali Transitional Government made the front page of the New York Times. The next day, those photos served as evidence in front of a US congressional hearing that the American government was violating international law by supporting a government that uses child soldiers.
Ed's work has been recognized by Pictures of the Year International, the Overseas Press Club, Ian Parry Scholarship, Best of Photojournalism, PDN Photo Annual, among others. He was selected for a Getty Images Editorial Grant, PDN 30 Under 30, as well as the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass.
He speaks English, Arabic, Mandarin, and gets by in Hebrew and French.
He is represented by Reportage by Getty Images.