NEW YORK – 20 November 2008 – “We, a group of former child soldiers and survivors of armed conflict in different capacities, are pleased to announce today the launch of the Network of Young People Affected by War (NYPAW) to help children whose lives have been derailed by conflict.

“As young people who have endured conflict in our respective countries and who are all too familiar with the toll it exacts on children’s emotional, social, physical, psychosocial and academic development, we are determined to help children whose fate has been similar to ours regain their confidence and their lives.

“Way too many children are witnessing the horrors of war: It is estimated that 1.5 billion children – two thirds of the world’s child population – live in the 42 countries affected by violent, high-intensity conflict between 2002 and 2006.

“Building on our own experiences, NYPAW seeks to speak up for the rights of all these children and to find concrete measures to prevent the use of children in war.

“We also hope to remind the world of how resilient children are, when given the right support. We are best-selling authors, renowned musicians, and youth advocates who hope to serve as role models to all those whose lives have been affected by violence.

“With guidance from United Nations, including UNICEF and the Office of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and with the assistance of War Child Holland and the Permanent Mission of Italy to the UN, NYPAW will use education and art – including writing, public speaking, poetry, music, painting, storytelling and theatre – to raise awareness to the plight of children living in conflict zones and provide them with the necessary support.

“NYPAW will also serve as a conduit linking children caught in conflict with governments, international organizations, civil society and the media.

“As individuals, our strength has been our belief that we could overcome the traumas we have faced in times of war. But united as NYPAW, our strength is being able to communicate our experiences and to help affect change for the other children currently struggling in conflict countries and support the reconciliation process in countries emerging from war That is our hope. That is our mission.”


Note to the editor:

The founders of NYPAW are:

Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone), is a former child soldier and author of A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Child Soldier. Ishmael is a UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War. He plans to launch his own foundation in 2009 dedicated to helping former child soldiers reintegrate into society and improve their lives. He lives in Brooklyn, NY, USA.

Kon Kelei (Sudan) is a former child soldier. He is a Spokesperson for War Child Holland and is currently working on a master’s degree in International and European Law in the Netherlands.

Grace Akallo (Uganda) is a former child soldier. She is currently enrolled at Gordon College, near Boston, Massachusetts. She is a spokesperson and activist for peace in northern Uganda.

Emmanuel Jal (Sudan), is a former child soldier. He is a worldwide acclaimed hip hop singer with a message of peace. He founded the non-profit organization Gua Africa, dedicated to educating children affected by war and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Emmanuel resides in England.

Shena A. Gacu(Uganda) is a former child soldier previously known as China Keitetsi. She is the founder of The African Child Soldiers and War Victims Charity. She lives in Denmark.

Zlata Filipović (Bosnia Herzegovina) is the author of Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Wartime Sarajevo. She is a graduate student of Oxford and currently lives in Ireland.


For more information, contact:

Laurance Gerard, Office of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict, 212-963-0984,

Kate Donovan, UNICEF, 212-326-7542,

Suzannah Vree, War Child Holland, +31-61-554-6847,