The international relief group Save the Children says more than 120,000 girls and young women around the world have been forced to take an active role in armed conflicts, many of them in Africa.
The London-based aid group says girls as young as eight years of age are abducted and forced to serve as cooks, porters and even scouts sent into enemy territory to gather information.
Many of the girls who are impressed into military service in this way are raped by older fighters and wind up as their unwilling wives or sex slaves. Save the Children's analysts say the children usually become pregnant and frequently contract sexually transmitted diseases.
Such girls, and their children, generally are ostracized for engaging in sex outside of marriage. Save the Children says the international community must extend more support to the children of war, to help them rejoin their home communities.
In Uganda alone, Save the Children says, at least 6,500 girls have been captured in p[ressed into service by the Lord's Resistance Army. A similar fate has befallen 12,500 children in the Democratic Republic of Congo.