Major Setbacks for the Protection of Children, States First UN Report on Children and Armed Conflict in South Sudan

New York – The conflict that started a year ago in South Sudan has brought about major setbacks for the protection of children, concludes the first report on children and armed conflict in South Sudan published today by the United Nations Secretary-General.

The report documents grave violations of children’s rights committed between March 2011 and September 2014 and describes how, following more than two years of relative peace, children’s vulnerability increased dramatically after the resumption of conflict. The report states that “the number of instances of grave violations perpetrated against children from mid-December 2013 to September 2014 [is] greater than […] 2012 and 2013 combined.” (emphasis added)

“The data collected and verified by the UN is devastating,” said Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. “The children of South Sudan were not only affected by renewed violence, they have been directly targeted by all parties to the conflict.”

According to the report, over 600 children were killed between December 2013 and September 2014. During the same period, thousands of child soldiers were seen with state and non-state armed groups. The UN documented dozens of cases of boys and girls who were victims of sexual violence committed by all parties to the conflict, although the actual number is likely to be higher due to underreporting. Schools were attacked, used for military purposes or as places to recruit children. Hospitals were also targeted by belligerents. There are currently six thousand children registered as separated from their family, unaccompanied or missing.

In mid-2014, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) formally recommitted to its Action Plan with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children as well as all grave violations against children. The SPLA in Opposition (SPLA-IO), led by Riek Machar, also committed to protect children from the impact of conflict.

“Six months later, we are still waiting to see boys and girls released and other meaningful actions that will help shield the country’s children from the violence,” the Special Representative added.

The report calls on the Government of South Sudan to develop a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme for children separated from armed forces and groups. This programme should be designed to ensure that children receive adequate support and reintegration assistance, with particular attention to the specific needs of girls.

Finally, the Secretary-General’s report identifies the “persistent and widespread impunity benefitting perpetrators” as a grave concern and urges the Government of South Sudan to ensure that perpetrators of grave child rights violations are held to account.

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Note to editors:

The report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in South Sudan documents the following six grave violations committed against children in times of war: killing and maiming, recruitment and use, sexual violence, abduction, attacks against schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access.

You can find the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in South Sudan here.

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For more information please contact: 

Stephanie Tremblay
Communications Officer
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
Tel: +1 212 963-8285
Mobile: +1 917 288-5791
tremblay@un.org