Over 200 child soldiers freed in South Sudan: UN

By Indo Asian News Service | Thursday, April 19, 2018 | 9:54:04 PM IST (+05:30 GMT) Comment 0 Comment

Juba, April 19 (IANS/AKI) A total of 207 male and female child soldiers were released by armed groups in South Sudan, part of a series of planned discharges that should see nearly 1,000 children return home over the coming months, the United Nations said.

Juba, April 19 (IANS/AKI) A total of 207 male and female child soldiers were released by armed groups in South Sudan, part of a series of planned discharges that should see nearly 1,000 children return home over the coming months, the United Nations said.

The child soldiers freed this week were released in Bakiwiri, a rural community in Western Equatoria state. The children -- 112 boys and 95 girls -- were from the South Sudan National Liberation Movement and Sudan People's Liberation Army-In Opposition.

The move, facilitated by UN International Children's Fund (UNICEF), follows the release of 300 children by armed groups in early February, the UN agency said late on Wednesday.

"No child should ever have to pick up a weapon and fight," said Mahimbo Mdoe, the head of UNICEF programmes in the country.

"For every child released, today marks the start of a new life. We are proud to support these children as they return to their families and start to build a brighter future."

But officials note that some 19,000 children still remain in armed groups in South Sudan, in violation of international law.

The child soldiers freed this week will now undergo medical screenings and receive counselling and psychosocial support as part of the reintegration programme, said UNICEF.

Once home, they will also have access to vocational training as well as age-specific education services in schools and accelerated learning centres.

Their families will also be provided with three months' worth of food assistance to support reintegration, according to the UN.

But with conflict lingering on in the world's youngest nation, the risk that children still in the hands of militias will be used in fighting remains, the UN warned.

"So long as the recruitment and use of children by armed groups continues, these groups fail on their commitment to uphold the rights of children under international law," underscored UNICEF.

As peace talks resume, the UN agency has called on all parties to the conflict to end the use of children and to release all children in their ranks.

Since gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan has spent much of the intervening period mired in conflict as a political face-off between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar erupted into full-blown war late in 2013.

--IANS/AKI

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