TORONTO, JUBA and NAIROBI, Aug. 18, 2016 /CNW/ - Since the beginning of this year more than 650 children have been recruited into armed groups in South Sudan, UNICEF said today.
Fearful that renewed conflict could put tens of thousands of children at ever greater risk, the United Nations Children's Fund called for an immediate end to recruitment and the unconditional release of all children by armed actors.
An estimated 16,000 children have been recruited by armed groups and armed forces since the crisis in South Sudan first began in December 2013. UNICEF said children continue to be recruited and used by armed groups and forces despite widespread political commitment to end the practice.
"The dream we all shared for the children of this young country has become a nightmare," said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth, upon his return from Bentiu and Juba in South Sudan. "At this precarious stage in South Sudan's short history, UNICEF fears that a further spike in child recruitment could be imminent."
In 2015 UNICEF oversaw the release of 1,775 former child soldiers in what was one of the largest demobilizations of children ever. Renewed fighting and recruitment in South Sudan risks undermining much of this progress.
UNICEF also highlighted increased grave violations in the world's youngest country, noting that gender-based violence, already pervasive in South Sudan, has greatly intensified during the current crisis.
"Children continue to endure horrific ordeals," said Forsyth. "Recent reports point to widespread sexual violence against girls and women. The systematic use of rape, sexual exploitation and abduction as a weapon of war in South Sudan must cease, together with the impunity for all perpetrators."
The UN Children's Fund noted that unconditional access for all humanitarian interventions in Juba and all other parts of the country is urgently needed so as to provide support, protection, and assistance to children and women across the country.
"Without a fully operational humanitarian sector, the consequences for children and their families will be catastrophic," said Forsyth.
Since fighting broke out in December 2013:
- Around 900,000 children have been internally displaced;
- More than 13,000 children are missing, have been separated from their families or are
- Over half of all South Sudanese children are out of school - the country has the highest
- proportion of out of school children in the world
- 250,000 children are facing severe acute malnutrition.
Note to Editors
UNICEF in South Sudan reports and monitors on grave child rights violations as part of the UN's Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) Country Task Force. MRM documents six abuses committed against children.
These violations are:
a) Recruiting and use of children in armed forces or armed groups,
b) Killing and maiming of children,
c) Attacks against schools or hospitals,
d) Rape and other forms of sexual violence,
e) Abduction of children, and
f) Denial of humanitarian access to children.
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.
UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca. For updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit unicef.ca.
SOURCE UNICEF Canada
Image with caption: "Women and their children who have been displaced by ongoing fighting camp outside in the early morning while they wait to be registered to receive food aid at an emergency food distribution site set up as part of a Rapid Response Mission (RRM) being run by UNICEF and WFP in Thanyang, Unity State, South Sudan Sunday, March 20, 2016. Nearly 15,000 people from surrounding areas made their way to Thanyang to get help. There are no health clinics, bore holes, schools or roads in the area and some people walked for two days to get there. The only water people have access to comes from a surrounding swamp. (CNW Group/UNICEF Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160818_C7311_PHOTO_EN_755466.jpg
For further information: Media Contacts: Stefanie Carmichael, UNICEF Canada, 416-482-6552 ext. 8866, 647-500-4230 (mobile), [email protected]