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Demobilization programme for former Afghan child soldiers reaches 2,000 children

Programme of demobilization and reintegration spans eight provinces

KABUL, 24 June 2004 – The programme to demobilize and re-integrate former child soldiers in Afghanistan, led by UNICEF with Government, NGO partners and local communities, has now helped to demobilize 2,203 children in eight provinces of the country, since its launch in February. The majority of children demobilized to date – all of whom are boys – are aged between 14 and 18 years old.

The programme is now underway in Kunduz, Badakhshan, Takhar, Baghlan, Bamyan, Laghman, Nangrahar and Nuristan provinces. The operation is divided into two phases; firstly, children are assessed for eligibility within the programme, registered and offered medical screening facilities and then secondly provided with durable alternative opportunities to military life including education and vocational skills training opportunities.

Of the children who have been demobilized to date, more than 1,700 have been assessed for reintegration programmes and many are now benefiting from education, skills training courses and income generation support in their home communities.

The demobilization process takes place at the community level, involving family members and local community structures to ensure ownership by the larger community. With support from UNAMA, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the National Commission for Demobilization and Reintegration and UN agencies, Local Committees for Demobilization and Reintegration Committee (LDRC) and NGOs assess and verify the eligibility of each child soldier for demobilization based on criteria including their age, and evidence that they have been part of a military unit.

A profile is then developed for each child, which includes soldiering status, a psychosocial assessment, and preferences that will guide the reintegration process. Each demobilized child soldier is issued a personal identification number and an ID card

A sensitisation briefing on expected social behaviour and standards (known locally as tarbia), peace and civic education, and the signing of a code of conduct by each former child soldier marks the end of the demobilization process in each community.

The second phase of the process involves the former child soldiers in discussion with NGOs, who will outline possible reintegration options. These include enrolment in formal education, skills training, and apprenticeships. All training options include an element of literacy tuition, as 76 per cent of demobilized child soldiers have benefited from no formal education.

The demobilization programme is currently still on-going in the eastern provinces, and is expected to move to six provinces in central Afghanistan and five provinces in the north before the end of 2004.

The demobilization and reintegration programme is coordinated by UNICEF, with funding provided by the United States and the Swedish Development Agency SIDA.

For further information please contact:
Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Media - +93 (0)7960 7400




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