Hundreds of Child Soldiers Reintegrated into South Sudanese Society
Hundreds of Child Soldiers Reintegrated into South Sudanese Society
South Sudanese fleeing an attack on the town of Rank rest upon arrival at a border gate in Joda along the Sudanese border. Reuters file
08 February, 2018, 04:17
Some 300 child soldiers, including 87 girls, were formally released by armed groups in South Sudan, the United Nations mission in the country reported on Wednesday, calling on all stakeholders to support the young people on the journey back to their communities and help them build a future for themselves.
It was the first release of children by any armed groups in South Sudan in more than year.
"They should be playing, learning, having fun with friends, protected and cherished by the adults around them". "Many joined armed groups because they feel they had no other option", said Mahimbo Mdoe, the head of UNICEF programmes in South Sudan.
The children's release was marked at a ceremony in the city of Yambio. "The parties to the conflict must commit to peace in order to help us reach those most affected and end suffering in the country". They were officially disarmed and provided with civilian clothes as well as medical screenings. When children return home, their families will be provided with three months' worth of food assistance to support their initial reintegration. "It is vital that they receive the support they need to rejoin their communities and that they are welcomed home by family and friends without any sense of stigma". In the past, nearly 2,000 child soldiers have been rehabilitated and released - more than 10 percent of whom were under 13 years old.
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The children were rescued from the Yambio region, the epicenter of fighting in the South Sudanese Civil War that has raged since late 2013, leading to tens of thousands of casualties and over 3.6 million people displaced.
UNIECF warned that an entire generation of children is at risk as they face death, injury, hunger, disease, recruitment, forced displacement and absence of education. "Our priority for this group - and for children across South Sudan - is to provide the support they need so they are able to see a more promising future". But little more than two years later, conflict erupted again when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy and political rival Riek Machar of planning a coup.
Further releases of children involved in the conflict will see another 450 child soldiers released under the program, global charity World Vision said.
South Sudan was founded with optimistic celebrations in the capital on July 9, 2011, after it gained independence from Sudan in a referendum that passed with close to 100 percent of the vote. Gradual peace negotiations freed some 4,000 child soldiers by 2012.
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