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South Sudan, 27 January 2015: Thousands of children to be gradually released from armed group

Some 280 children handed over to UNICEF today

27 January 2015, JUBA/NAIROBI/GENEVA/NEW YORK – UNICEF and partners have secured the release of approximately 3,000 children from an armed group in South Sudan - one of the largest ever demobilizations of children. The first group of 280 children were released today, at the village of Gumuruk in Jonglei State, eastern South Sudan. Further phased releases of the other children will occur over the coming month.
 

© UNICEF South Sudan/2015/ Mariantonietta Peru
Child soldier at Cobra faction military camp in Gumuruk

 
Recruited by the South Sudan Democratic Army (SSDA) Cobra Faction led by David Yau Yau, the children range in age from eleven to 17 years old. Some have been fighting for up to four years and many have never attended school. In the last year, 12,000 children, mostly boys, have been recruited and used as soldiers by armed forces and groups in South Sudan as a whole.

The children surrendered their weapons and uniforms in a ceremony overseen by the South Sudan National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission, and the Cobra Faction and supported by UNICEF.

“These children have been forced to do and see things no child should ever experience,” said UNICEF South Sudan Representative Jonathan Veitch. “The release of thousands of children requires a massive response to provide the support and protection these children need to begin rebuilding their lives.”
 

© UNICEF South Sudan/2015/ Mariantonietta Peru
Child soldiers at demobilization ceremony in Gumuruk

 
The children released from the Cobra Faction are being supported with basic health care and protection services and necessities such as food, water and clothing to help them get ready to return to their families. Counselling and other psychological support programmes are urgently being established. The children will soon have access to education and skills training programmes.

UNICEF is working to trace and reunify the children with their families, a daunting task in a country where more than 1 million children have either been displaced internally or have fled to neighbouring countries since fighting broke out in December 2013.

Support will extend to local communities to prevent and reduce discrimination against the returning children and also to prevent possible recruitment.

“The successful reintegration of these children back into their communities depends on a timely, coordinated response to meet their immediate and long-term needs. These programmes require significant resources,” said Veitch.

UNICEF estimates the costs for the release and reintegration of each child is approximately $2,330 for 24 months. So far UNICEF has received EUR 1.6 million from the IKEA Foundation – a first and critical contribution to funding for the release and reintegration programme – and is appealing for an additional $10 million in support. Other donors include the EU and the German and United Kingdom National Committees for UNICEF.
 

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About UNICEF
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org.

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For more information, please contact:

John Budd, UNICEF South Sudan jbudd@unicef.org +211 91 239 8404

Claire McKeever, UNICEF South Sudan cmckeever@unicef.org +211955109325

James Elder, UNICEF East and Southern Africa Regional Office jelder@unicef.org +254 71 558 1222

Melanie Sharpe, UNICEF New York msharpe@unicef.org +1 917-251-7670

Christophe Boulierac, UNICEF Geneva cboulierac@unicef.org +41 (0) 799639244

 

 
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