South Sudan armed groups release over 500 children

Wednesday April 18 2018

Members of the White Army, a South Sudanese

Members of the White Army, a South Sudanese anti-government militia, attend a rally in Nasir on April 14, 2014. More than 500 children have been released from armed groups in the country. PHOTO FILE | AFP 

JOSEPH ODUHA
By JOSEPH ODUHA
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More than 500 children have been released from the armed groups in South Sudan, Unicef has said.

In a statement released Wednesday, the agency confirmed that 200 of the children were released on Tuesday alone, while another 300 were freed in early February.

The agency said the numbers could rise to over 1,000 children as others were expected to be freed from the ranks of military in coming months.

Out of the 207 children released on Tuesday by the South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM), an armed group based in Western Equatoria, 95 were girls and 112 boys.

Their release was facilitated by Unicef.

Unicef has also promised counselling and psychosocial support to the released children as part of the reintegration programme.

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“When the children return to their homes, their families will be provided with three months’ worth of food assistance to support their initial reintegration. The children will also be provided with vocational training aimed at improving household income and food security.

“In addition to services related to livelihood, Unicef and partners will ensure the released children have access to age-specific education services in schools and accelerated learning,” the agency said.

“No child should ever have to pick up a weapon and fight. For every child released, today marks the start of a new life," the Unicef representative in South Sudan, Mr Mahimbo Mdoe, said.

"Unicef is proud to support these children as they return to their families and start to build a brighter future.”

There were still around 19,000 children serving in the ranks of armed groups in South Sudan, according to the Unicef statistics.

The agency says it requires $45 million to support the release, demobilisation and reintegration of the 19,000 children still in armed ranks.

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