Thousands of Liberian Children to Benefit from UNICEF Support
GENEVA/ MONROVIA, 16 April 2004 – With the re-commencement of the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation, and reintegration (DDRR) of fighters of Liberia’s warring factions on15 April 2004, UNICEF is mobilizing resources to provide immediate care and reintegration support to the estimated 15,000 children who will come through the demobilization process.
Extensive awareness campaigns have been conducted jointly with UNMIL to prepare children for demobilization and reintegration. The campaigns have also aimed at preparing families and communities for the reunification of the returning children. Sensitization messages have focussed on peace and tolerance, the importance of disarmament, sending children to school and protecting their rights.
“The DDRR process is critical to improving the well-being of Liberian Children,” says UNICEF Representative Ms. Angela Kearney. “It will facilitate greater access to towns and villages throughout Liberia where children have been denied their basic human rights. It will enable UNICEF and our partners to access the children most affected by the conflict, both those recruited as fighters and other children in communities where there have been minimal basic services due to the conflict. The DDRR, therefore, offers renewed hope to all children.” Ms. Kearney explained.
The DDRR will be re-launched in Gbarnga but new sites are scheduled to open every five days until four sites throughout the country are operational. UNICEF has negotiated with the UNMIL that children will be prioritised in the process and will not spend longer than 72 hours in the demobilisation camps, where they will be separated from adult combatants. Thereafter, children will be transferred to Interim Care Centres from where they begin the road home to their families and communities.
Child protection agencies will work to common standards of care to ensure children are enabled to recover from their conflict experiences and are provided with services that will re-link them with their families and provide them with protection and access to basic services such as education and livelihood support on return to their communities.
The project will last approximately one year and should cost about USD 6,308, 600.
Learning from other DDRR programmes, a strong accent will be placed on ensuring community participation in the return of demobilised children.
UNICEF is working closely with UN agencies, NGO partners and the Transitional Government of Liberia to ensure children have access to interim care, family tracing services, education and skills training and that they can return safely to their families and communities without risk of further recruitment.
“UNICEF recognizes the challenges ahead in making Liberia a place safe for the growth, survival and development of Liberian children. We are committed to supporting the DDRR because it works towards a safer environment for all children in Liberia. It is vital that we use today as the launch for long-term protection for children from recruitment, separation from their families and sexual violence - sadly all the characteristics of conflict, ” Ms. Kearney stresses.
* Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration