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South Sudanese child soldiers estimated to be over 17,000

South Sudanese child soldiers estimated to be over 17,000

South Sudan

Over 17,000 South Sudanese children are estimated to have been recruited into armed groups since the start of the conflict in 2013 with 1,300 children recruited in 2016 alone.

The figures were released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday following new reports of recruitment of children.

“Since the first day of this conflict, children have been the ones most devastatingly affected by the violations. Now, as the fighting intensifies – and despite repeated pledges by all to end child recruitment – children are once again being targeted,” UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala said.

To date, 59 armed groups and government forces are listed in the UN Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict as having committed grave violations against children.

UNICEF reports of violations against children since 2013, including 2,342 who have been killed or maimed, 3,090 who have been abducted, and 1,130 sexually assaulted.

Some armed groups have however agreed to end the recruitment of child soldiers while others have released a number of them: 1,755 in 2015 and 177 this year.

The government’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and SPLA in Opposition signed agreements with the United Nations to end the recruitment and use of children in conflict followed by the release of 145 child soldiers by rebel movements SPLA-IO and the Cobra Faction.

However, renewed conflicts have been followed by an increase in the act.

“UNICEF’s concern is that with the prospect of increased hostilities and atrocities, the suffering that children have endured will have no end. The children of South Sudan need sustained peace, care and support,” the Regional Director added.

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