The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has facilitated the release of 128 child soldiers from a disbanded rebel group in Yambio located in South Sudan’s southern region of Western Equatoria.
According to a statement by UNICEF, some 90 boys and 38 girls were released from the South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in opposition (SPLA-IO) groups.
This, is the fourth release of children since outbreak of conflict in December 2013.
“The progress made this year gives us reason to hope that one day all of the 19,000 children still serving in the ranks of armed groups and armed forces will be able to return to their families,” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan.
Mdoe disclosed that they will continue working towards ending the use and recruitment of children in conflict.
UNICEF said since February over 900 children have been released from armed groups.
UNICEF said the children were formally disarmed and provided with civilian clothes.
The UN agency also said that the children would be undergoing medical screenings and counseling and psychosocial support as part of the reintegration programme, which is implemented by UNICEF and partners.
The agency said that when the children return to their homes, their families will be provided with three months’ worth of food assistance by the World Food Program to support their initial reintegration.
The children will also be provided with vocational training aimed at improving household income and food security.
“Being unable to support themselves economically can be a key factor in children becoming associated with armed groups.
“These releases are a joint effort between UNICEF, UNMISS and government partners. Negotiations with the parties to the conflict require considerable energy and commitment from all involved,” said Mdoe.
The SSNLM in April 2016 signed a peace agreement with the government and is now integrating its ranks into the national army, while a small number were released from the SPLA-IO.
UNICEF South Sudan requires 45 million U.S dollars to support release, demobilization and reintegration of 19,000 children over the next three years.