In a statement to mark the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, the UNICEF said children were becoming increasingly vulnerable to recruitment and use by armed groups as conflicts around the world became more brutal, intense and widespread.

"While governments of the world have made progress to recognize that children have no place in their armies, the recruitment of child soldiers is still a huge problem, especially with armed groups," said Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict.

According to UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt, tens of thousands of boys and girls are associated with armed forces and armed groups in conflicts in over 20 countries around the world.

"The release of all children from armed groups must take place without delay," she said, adding that investing in ways to keep children away from the front-lines, including through education and economic support, was critical to their future.

According to the UNICEF, child soldiers continue to be used in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Iran and Syria.

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