Some nightmares have once been a reality

UNICEF is launching a video series on nightmares in children associated with armed forces and armed groups

08 February 2021
A child being chased by gun men

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN 8 FEBRUARY 2021 – “The nightmare that continues to haunt me, is my dad being slaughtered by the group that captured me,” said Joseph [NAME CHANGED] who was only 13 when he was kidnapped, forced to fight and had to watch his father being killed. Joseph is one of five children featured in the video series ‘When I Close My Eyes”, launched by UNICEF today.

The series is focusing on recurring nightmares as a common reaction in children associated with armed forces and armed groups (CAAFAG) and its devastating effects. It takes away their sleep, their ability to focus and function well. They often struggle at school, become irritated and aggressive or withdraw completely. As the world commemorates the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers on 12 February, UNICEF is highlighting the damaging effects armed conflict has on children directly involved in atrocities.

 “While physical wounds are quickly attended to, psychological wounds often remain bleeding and unattended to,” said Andrea Suley, UNICEF South Sudan Representative a.i. “For children used by armed forces and armed groups to be able to rebuild their lives and create a future for themselves, they must be given adequate psychosocial support and treatment when needed.”

South Sudan has a faulty mental health care system and there is only one psychiatric ward with few beds in the country and a limited number of specialists. However, much can be done on community level through close follow-up from social workers. Therefore, every child in the UNICEF supported reintegration programme for CAAFAGs is given a dedicated social worker for three years.

“Since I met with my social worker, she has helped me with so many things, so that’s why I’m not dreaming anymore,” said Sara [NAME CHANGED]. She was only 10 years old when she was forced into an armed group. She used to have nightmares several times per week after she was released.

 “The children’s stories are strong testimonies of the importance of ending the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. UNICEF is urging all parties to the conflict in South Sudan to honour their commitments to not violate the rights of  children and for the government to secure funding for full implementation of the comprehensive action plan against the six grave violations against children in armed conflict,” said Suley.”

The videos are available for everyone on UNICEF South Sudan’s YouTube Channel. You can also watch the videos by visiting the special online feature on our web

About the CAAFAG programme in South Sudan

Since 2013, UNICEF has supported the release and reintegration of 3,785 children associated with armed forces and armed groups in South Sudan. Under the umbrella of the South Sudan Government’s National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission, released children are received in interim care facilities set up by UNICEF and partners where they receive necessities such as clothing, food and health services. They are then registered, and UNICEF begins to trace their families for reunification if needed. They also receive counselling and other psychosocial support services and social and economic reintegration packages such a livelihood, income generation activities and vocational and life skill trainings. UNICEF creates a three- year long multisectoral plan for each child to ensure they receive the necessary follow-up and support.

UNICEF has appealed for USD 4 million for the CAAFAG programme for 2021.

Media contacts

Yves Willemot
Chief of Communication
UNICEF South Sudan
Tel: +211 91 216 2888


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