On 14 August 2016 in the Protection of Civilians (POC) site near Bentiu, in Unity State, South Sudan, children play at dusk.
Since the beginning of 2016, more than 650 children have been recruited into armed groups in South Sudan. Fearful that renewed conflict could put tens of thousands of children at ever greater risk, UNICEF called for an immediate end to recruitment and the unconditional release of all children by armed actors. An estimated 16,000 children have been recruited by armed groups and armed forces since the crisis in South Sudan first began in December 2013. UNICEF said children continue to be recruited and used by armed groups and forces despite widespread political commitment to end the practice.
“The dream we all shared for the children of this young country has become a nightmare,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth, upon his return from Bentiu and Juba in South Sudan. “At this precarious stage in South Sudan’s short history, UNICEF fears that a further spike in child recruitment could be imminent.” In 2015, UNICEF oversaw the release of 1,775 former child soldiers in what was one of the largest demobilizations of children ever. Renewed fighting and recruitment in South Sudan risks undermining much of this progress.