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Former child soldier launches memoirs

NEW YORK, 15 February 2007 – A Long Way Gone, by former child soldier Ishmael Beah, is being launched today at UNICEF. The book is a first hand account of Ishmael’s experiences as a child soldier in Sierra Leone, where he fought for almost three years until he was officially demobilized and placed in a UNICEF-supported rehabilitation centre.

UNICEF and the government of France recently held the ‘Free Children from War’ conference in Paris. The conference concluded with the ‘Paris Commitments’ where representatives from 59 countries committed to putting an end to the illegal recruitment of children in armed conflicts. 

The latest figures suggest that more than 250,000 children are currently serving as child soldiers.  Armed conflicts are particularly tragic for children who are vulnerable to violence, rape, abduction, amputation, mutilation, forced displacement, and sexual exploitation.

Since the mid-1980s, UNICEF has played a key role in advocating for and securing the release of children from armed forces and other armed groups in conflict-affected countries across the globe, including in Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda.

UNICEF provides life skills training, education, health care and counseling to support the reintegration of former child soldiers back into family and community life. UNICEF and its NGO partners also provide care, technical guidance and financial support for the successful implementation of national programmes for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

Ishmael, now 26, received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2004 from Oberlin College and currently lives in New York.

UNICEF is on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Geoff Keele, UNICEF NY: Tel + 1 212 326 7583, gkeele@unicef.org

Saira Khan, UNICEf NY: Tel + 1 212 326 7224, sskhan@unicef.org




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