Children in South Sudan remained highly vulnerable to grave violations, and despite some progress and an overall decrease in grave violations compared to the last reporting period, the continuing clashes between armed forces and armed groups, and escalating intercommunal violence left a dramatic toll on children, highlights a new Report of the UN Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in South Sudan released today.
Overall, 457 grave violations were committed against children between 1 July 2020 and 30 June 2022, with the recruitment and use of 182 children remaining the most verified grave violation, followed by killing and maiming, and rape and other forms of sexual violence, which showed a sharp increase in the first half of 2022.
“Despite some progress, all six grave violations against children continue to be committed by all parties to conflict in South Sudan. Even though the overall number of violations decreased, the brutality and systematicity of many incidents did not. I urge all parties to the 2020 comprehensive action plan to expeditiously implement all of its provisions, including those addressing conflict-related sexual violence, and call on groups that so far have not agreed to an action plan to engage with the United Nations,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba.
She further calls on all parties to ensure the full implementation of the peace agreement, including its provisions on the protection of children.
The situation of children was particularly dreading in Unity, Central Equatoria and Western Equatoria. Most violations (45%) were perpetrated by armed groups, but the Government security forces were responsible for at least one in three grave violations (35%). Explosive remnants of war remained the leading cause of killing and maiming of children. Continued and strengthened demining efforts therefore remain crucial.
Sixty-three (63) children were abducted, the majority by non-State actors, and often for the purpose of recruitment and use or sexual violence. The number of attacks on schools and hospitals decreased to 11; however, though it is not a grave violation, 26 incidents of the military use of schools and hospitals were verified, 20 of which were attributed to the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces.
The UN verified 10 instances of denial of humanitarian access at the same time as the overall operational context for humanitarians remains very challenging. Incidents of denial of humanitarian access continued to involve the killing of humanitarian workers in the line of duty. This takes place as the humanitarian situation in South Sudan remained dire and was characterized by an especially stretched healthcare system due to COVID-19, food insecurity, climatic shocks, including floods and droughts, and prolonged mass displacement. In 2022, over 1.34 million children faced acute malnutrition and required life-saving treatment for survival. A total of 700,000 children were internally displaced.
Engagement for Children Affected by Conflict
The report details some progress for children, though the implementation of the 2020 comprehensive action plan to end and prevent all grave violations against children in South Sudan, signed in February 2020, was delayed partially due to the slow implementation of the peace agreement and the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Such progress includes the organization of the National Conference on the protection of children in South Sudan in May 2022 which produced 15 resolutions and 22 recommendations on strengthening child protection, including calls to the Government to increase budgetary allocation for child protection and to strengthen accountability systems on child rights violations.
This is particularly crucial as accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims of grave violations remained largely absent. The launch of mobile court martials in several parts of the country was a positive step in that sense and the Special Representative hopes that they will contribute to the fight against impunity for child rights violations.
In addition, the establishment of the Necessary Unified Forces per the Peace Agreement, provided the UN with opportunities to access military barracks and cantonment sites to conduct screening and age verification exercises, verify grave violations, and advocate for the protection of children. In total, 18 children were formally released, and 11 children escaped during the reporting period.
“Ensuring the necessary financial and technical support provide sustainable, timely, and child-sensitive reintegration and rehabilitation programmes for children formerly associated with armed forces and groups, survivor-centered and gender-sensitive services and assistance programmes for survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence, remains of utmost importance. I call on the international community to continue to support this endeavor, as well as our child protection capacity on the ground, as it remains crucial to achieving sustainable gains for the protection of children,” the Special Representative added.
Overview of grave violations
457 grave violations against 409 children (287 boys, 114 girls, 8 sex unknown
Recruitment and use: 182 children (174 boys, 8 girls)
Killing and maiming: 117 children (58 killed, 59 maimed) (91 boys, 25 girls, 1 sex unknown)
Rape and sexual violence: 74 incidents verified (all girls)
Abduction: 63 children
Attacks on schools and hospitals: 11 incidents verified
Denial of humanitarian access: 10 incidents verified
For additional information, please contact:
Fabienne Vinet, Communications Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
+1-917-288-5791 (mobile) / email@example.com
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