Children associated with armed forces

The challenge

UNICEF in action


UNICEF in action

Last updated: January 2019

Release of children 2015-2019

UNICEF has supported three releases in the former Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA), now Boma State. In December 2015, the South Sudan Democratic Army (SSDA) Cobra Faction released 1,750 boys and 5 girls in the GPAA of Jonglei State as part of an exercise in which the SSDA Cobra Fraction was integrated into the SPLA. A second release was carried out in October 2016, in which an additional 145 children were released from the Cobra Faction and SPLA-IO and provided with social and economic reintegration services.

In May 2018, UNICEF South Sudan and UNMISS supported the National DDR Commission in facilitating the release of 210 children (207 boys; 3 girls) from the SPLA-iO and the National Salvation Front (NAS) in Pibor, Boma State. This was the third release of children supported by UNICEF since 2015, bringing the total number of released children across Boma State to 2,110.

In alignment with the 2016 peace agreement that was signed by the government of South Sudan and the South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM), as well as additional agreements made by the government and the SPLA-iO in an effort to attain peace, in February 2018, UNICEF supported the release and reintegration of 348 children (248 boys; 100 girls) associated with the SSNLM and SPLA-iO in Yambio, Western Equatoria State. Due to the high volume of children in need of reintegration services across the county, children were released in two additional phases to include 248 children (137 boys; 111 girls) released in Bakiwiri in April 2018, and 149 children (98 boys; 51 girls) released in Asanza in August 2018. In January 2019, UNICEF and partners further supported the release of 106 children (27 girls; 79 boys) in Yambio. The majority of the children were released from the former SSNLM.

UNICEF is currently supporting the National Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) Commission with continued advocacy and resources at both the national and state levels to support the continued release of children in Western Equatoria, Jonglei and Unity.


Community-based reintegration programming across South Sudan

UNICEF supports the National DDR Commission and local ministries in providing released children with access to reintegration services that include family tracing and reunification, psychosocial support, education, vocational training and economic strengthening opportunities. UNICEF partners with civil society and international NGOs to provide holistic services that will facilitate successful and sustainable reintegration of previously released children, and build the protective capacities of children and communities to reduce the risk of (re)recruitment.

Case management and family reunification:

All released children are provided with access to interim care and subsequently reunified with their families. Following reunification, children receive three months worth of food rations and various necessities, including civilian clothing, blankets, cooking utensils, and fishing gear. Released children continue to receive follow-up visits to ensure they are not re-recruited, facilitate access to services, address protection issues that arise, and monitor their transition back to their families. Children who are unable to safely return to their families are placed in a family-based care arrangement and provided continued support to identify a long-term care arrangement.

Social development:

UNICEF and partners engage youth in social development activities to reduce inter-communal violence and the likelihood of children (re)joining in hostilities. This begins with intensive psychosocial support for two months following their release to promote healing and normalcy, followed by ongoing support and engagement at youth centers. In addition, children participate in activities and clubs that aim to build valuable life skills, build peace, and bridge social capital.

Socioeconomic reintegration:

UNICEF is working through partners to improve livelihoods and income generating opportunities for released children and other vulnerable children/households. Children receive hands-on vocational training and apprenticeships in a wide range of activities that include animal health care, beekeeping, soap making, tailoring, hairdressing, and leather work. Additionally, vulnerable children and households are provided with economic strengthening activities to include: agriculture activities, inclusive of cash crops and vegetable production, livelihoods activities such as fishing, poultry or small animal husbandry, and/or income generation activities through small business enterprises.

Over 200 children are enrolled at Tindoka Vocational Training Centre in Yambio, where they are participating in locally supported trades including tailoring, carpentry, masonry, plumbing, welding, and electrical wiring. Children who successfully complete the program will receive apprenticeships and/or material support to start up small-scale businesses.


UNICEF aims to provide released children with access to formal education and/or accelerated learning programs to ensure access to quality education, as education is key to successful reintegration and the prevention of recruitment.

UNICEF is supporting 43 schools and learning centers across Boma, Jonglei State, reaching 16,220 children and adolescents (38 per cent girls) with access to education. A total of 653 previously released children are currently enrolled in education services, while others are enrolled in vocational and livelihoods trainings.

UNICEF has supported the re-opening of Pibor Secondary School, which now has two classes and supports 82 children with secondary school education.

UNICEF and its implementing partner World Vision have scaled up education activities to enroll children released from armed groups in Yambio. Since the last release, 294 children (198 boys; 96 girls) were enrolled into primary school, and an additional 35 children (30 boys; 5 girls) were enrolled into secondary school.


In targeted areas where recruitment and use is known, UNICEF works to ensure that communities have access to safe and sustainable water supplies throughout the year to reduce population movement, as seasonal migration influences access to education and often contributes to inter-communal conflict. UNICEF has reached nearly 50,000 people with safe water across Boma. Following the release in Yambio, UNICEF has upgraded water and sanitation facilities at both of the UNICEF support interim care. centers hosting released children.



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