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145 child soldiers freed by two South Sudanese armed groups

South Sudan

A total of 145 child soldiers have been released on Wednesday by former rebel group of former South Sudanese First Vice President Riek Machar and another group in Pibor in eastern South Sudan.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) confirmed the release of the children by former rebel movements SPLA-IO and the Cobra Faction.

“Our hope is that their release today will be followed by many others so that the 16,000 children still with armed groups can return to their families,” the representative of UNICEF South Sudan, Mahimbo Mdoe, said in a statement.

“Children in South Sudan need security, protection and opportunities … Our priority is that they go to school and be able to provide services to their communities and to consider a more promising future,” he added.

The children were reportedly released unarmed and were given civilian clothes before they underwent medical examinations and enrolled in a rehabilitation programme.

They are expected to receive counseling and be placed in a specialized center in the coming months until their families are found.

Food assistance for three months will be provided once they are reunited with their families to allow them gain additional income.

UNICEF estimates that 16,000 child soldiers have been recruited since December 2013 when the civil war began claiming tens of thousands of lives and more than 2.5 million civilians displaced.

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