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A chance to return to normal life: Former child soldiers return home in northern Uganda

© UNICEF Uganda/2004/Hyun
A young boy, formerly abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army, gets ready to board a flight home.

GULU, Uganda, 17 May 2004—52 children, who are former victims of abduction by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), are returning to their home communities in northern Uganda.  The airlift is part of an ongoing programme organised by World Vision with UNICEF support, to help the children return to normal life after their experiences at the hands of the LRA.

For more than a decade, the LRA has waged a guerrilla war from bases in northern Uganda and southern Sudan, abducting an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 boys and girls who are forced from their homes to become soldiers, porters, and sex slaves for senior commanders. 

Children who are abducted in northern Uganda are forced to march to camps in neighbouring southern Sudan, with many thousands thought to have died from disease or starvation on the way. As part of their initiation into rebel life, they are made to participate in brutal acts of violence, often being forced to beat or hack to death fellow child captives who have attempted to escape. Very few manage to flee to safety. Those who do survive are forced to take part in combat against the Ugandan army and the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

© UNICEF Uganda/2004/Hyun
Children gather for an airlift organized with UNICEF support.

The children who are joining the current airlift were released after fighting between Ugandan troops and the LRA.  All have spent anywhere between a few days to several months in reception centres, where they received medical and psychosocial counselling support.

UNICEF provides air and road transport for formerly abducted children, and also supports a network of community volunteer counsellors with training in psychosocial counselling and referral, once the children are reunited with their families.

The 52 children travelled from Gulu to their homes in Kitgum and Kalongo Districts.



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It has been estimated that over 300,000 children under the age of 18 are currently being used in more than 30 conflicts worldwide. Read more:

Child soldiers

Child protection: Armed conflict

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