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Nine year old girl soldier freed in large release of child soldiers in South Sudan

New release will bring number of freed children to more than 1,300 since January 26

JUBA/NAIROBI/NEW YORK, 21 March, 2015 – Up to 250 child soldiers including four girls, one as young as nine, were released today in South Sudan from an armed group, the Cobra Faction. Another 400 are being released over the next two days.

The release happened in the remote village of Lekuangole, in Jonglei State. It is the third release of children following a peace deal between the faction and the Government. The Government’s National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (NDDRC) and UNICEF are working together to care for the children and reintegrate them back in their communities.

The Cobra Faction have advised UNICEF that they have up to 3000 child soldiers in their armed group.

In a formal ceremony in Lekuangole the children were demobilized by the NDDRC with their weapons and uniforms exchanged for civilian clothes. UNICEF then took responsibility for looking after the children at an interim care centre in the village where they are provided with food, shelter and medical care.

UNICEF and partners will then begin the process of tracing their families, and where necessary providing psychosocial support.

The three-day release is the biggest yet. UNICEF and the NDDRC teams have registered 654 children. UNICEF has been told that many other child soldiers, including girls, remain in cattle camps in the area. Two further releases are scheduled shortly. 

UNICEF Representative in South Sudan, Jonathan Veitch said this release takes the number of child soldiers demobilized to 1314.

“Of the 660 children set free in Pibor and Gumrok, 200 children have been reunited or are about to be reunited with their families. In a short time that figure will double,” Veitch said.

“While we welcome freedom for the children, we are also deeply disturbed by the hundreds of children being abducted in Upper Nile and Unity States. Boys are being targeted and rounded up by forces of the Government and Opposition.”

“UNICEF condemns this violation of human rights and calls on all parties to release the children. UNICEF stands ready to support their demobilization,” Veitch said.

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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Access broadcast quality b-roll and photos of ongoing demobilization efforts in South Sudan here http://uni.cf/1DFMo1j

For more information please contact:
John Budd, Communication Officer, UNICEF South Sudan; Mobile: +211912398404;  jbudd@unicef.org
James Elder, UNICEF Regional Chief of Communication, Eastern & Southern Africa; Mobile: +254 71558 1222; jelder@unicef.org  twitter @1james_elder
Melanie Sharpe, UNICEF New York, +1917 251 7670, msharpe@unicef.org





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