Sixty-eight children associated with armed groups were released today in Yambio, South Sudan, following an assessment and verification conducted by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Child Protection Unit and the national Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) commission.
This is the fourth batch of children released from the former South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM), who signed a peace agreement and agreed to integrate into government forces.
“The children that we are releasing today is part of the releases that we did last year,” said Oluku Andrew, South Sudan national coordinator for disarmament demobilization and reintegration of children. “The number may increase to about 100,” he went on. “This will not bring us to an end – if we finish with this 955 that we verified and registered. There are some other locations that have reported about the presence of children [in armed forces].”
Anna Michael, UNICEF’s Child Protection Officer in Yambio explained what had to be done after the release.
“From UNICEF’s side, we provide mainly the psycho-social support for these children, where we have established child-friendly spaces in the different communities where children come from, and social workers engage them in activities that help them to regain their childhood and be children – normal children in the communities,” she said.
She said UNICEF would also support the children’s formal and informal education.
“For the school aged children – those who are still fit for primary school, they go to the different primary schools around,” said Ms. Michael. “They enroll, and UNICEF supports the Ministry of Education to provide the required services to them at school,” she concluded.
She also said that UNICEF has different reintegration services for the children, which will be implemented with other humanitarian partners such as World Vision, World Food Programme, and the Catholic Medical Mission Board.