Graca Machel speaks with a former child soldier during a visit to a UNICEF-assisted camp for demobilized child soldiers near Freetown, the capital. The boy is 1 of approximatley 25 former child soldiers who had been forcibly conscripted by rebel forces.
From 2-5 November 1995, Ms. Graca Machel visited demobilization centres for child soldiers, displaced persons’ camps, and health and feeding centres set up in and near Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, part of her global work, appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, to carry out a two year Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children. The Study will be presented to the Secretary-General in the fall of 1996. The civil conflict in Sierra Leone, which began in 1991, has displaced over 40% of the country’s 4.5 million inhabitants, already among the poorest in the world. Only 25% of eligible children attend school and 13% of children suffer from moderate to severe wasting. Up to 2,500 children have been combatants in the current conflict, many having been forcibly abducted from their homes. In addition to assisting with basic health, education and water services, UNICEF is also supporting a programme, together with NGO’s and other partners, to demobilize and rehabilitate former child soldiers.