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UNICEF welcomes release of 85 children from armed forces in North Kivu

Agency calls for release of all children from armed groups

GOMA/GENEVA, 3 February 2009 - UNICEF welcomed today the release of 85 children by the Mayi Mayi armed group in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

All 85 are now receiving protection and assistance from UNICEF and its partners who are also starting the process of trying to reunite the children with their families.

“The release of these children is very encouraging as they can now start the long road to recovery,” said Ms. Pierrette Vu Thi, UNICEF representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “The challenges for UNICEF now are to help these children heal and to ensure that the thousands of children who remain with armed groups are also released and returned to their families as soon as possible."

Of these children, 65 were released on 29 January, and another 20 on 1 February. The children are between the ages of 7 and 17, five of them being girls.

A number of armed groups in North Kivu, including the National Congress for People’s Defence, Pareco and the Mayi Mayi, have verbally agreed to release all children in their ranks. It is expected that a written agreement will be signed in the next few days.

If the agreement holds, UNICEF and partners estimate that 1,500 children could be withdrawn from armed groups in the next three months.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 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:
Jaya Murthy, UNICEF DR Congo, +243-81-830-5933, jmurthy@unicef.org
Veronique Taveau, UNICEF Geneva, Tel: +41 22 909 5716, vtaveau@unicef.org 
Patrick McCormuick, UNICEF New York, +1-212-326-7426, pmccormick@unicef.org




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