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Press centre

Media advisory

"The return and reintegration of child soldiers in Sudan: the challenges ahead"

NAIROBI, KENYA, 30 September, 2004 - About 20,000 children have been demobilised from the ranks of southern Sudanese rebel forces since 2001, according to UNICEF. An article published this week in the journal "Forced Migration Review" (Oxford University, UK) summarises a major evaluation of child demobilisation in Sudan commissioned by UNICEF.

According to the report, although complex and problematic, many of the demobilisations in southern Sudan were "relatively straightforward". Future child demobilisation, especially from government or government-allied forces in the event of a north-south peace agreement, will present new and "enormous" challenges.

Rough estimates suggest there may be several thousand combatant children remaining with various armed forces in the country. Many of them are thought to be southerners who have been involved with government or associated forces in the 21-year civil war. Local leaders in southern Sudan interviewed in the study say they do not expect problems absorbing these new children. "They are all our children... it isn't their fault they have been fighting for the enemy... they were abducted... they had to eat." However, on further reflection, community leaders express concern about pressure on services, especially education; culture and religion, criminality and other possible problems that could crop up as the children return.

The article can be accessed online at: http://www.fmreview.org/FMRpdfs/FMR21/FMR2111.pdf or can be e-mailed on request.

Una McCauley, co-author of the article and UNICEF Protection Officer for Operation Lifeline Sudan (Southern Sector) is available for interview on +254 20 622423.

Photos of child demobilisation and reintegration in southern Sudan are also available.

For more information, please contact:

Ben Parker, UNICEF Operation Lifeline Sudan, +254 733 609869, bparker@unicef.org





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