More than 300 children have been released by armed groups in South Sudan, said the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
UNICEF said it was the third time in 2018 that hundreds of children were released by armed groups in the conflict-torn country. The UN agency said since the beginning of the year, 806 children had been released. Additional releases are expected in the coming months that could result in more than 1,000 children being freed. “Today is the start of the long journey of reintegration for these children and they will need a lot of support along the way.
“Every time children are released and able to return to their family, it’s a source of great hope for their future and for the future of the country. “We also hope there will be many more of these events until there is no longer any child in the ranks of armed groups,’’ said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan. During the reception, the children were formally disarmed and provided with civilian clothes.
Previous ceremonies took place in February and April in Yambio town, south of the country where 348 and 248 children were released respectively. The 300 children released included three girls and largely came from the opposition group the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition, with eight being associated with the National Salvation Front (NSF). An estimated 19,000 children continue to serve in the ranks of armed forces and groups in South Sudan. UNICEF urged all parties to the conflict to end the recruitment of children and to release all those in their ranks.
Medical screenings would now be carried out and they would receive counselling and psycho-social support as part of the reintegration programme, which is implemented by UNICEF and partners. Once reunited, the children and their families would be provided with three months’ worth of food assistance to support their initial reintegration. They would also be provided with vocational training, aimed at improving household income and food security. UNICEF and partners would also ensure the released children have access to age-specific education services.
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