The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday that 15 children associated with armed forces and armed groups have been released in South Sudan.
The UN agency said the boys ranging from 16 to 18 years of age were taken as prisoners of war during clashes in the northern parts of the country in 2019.
“Today (Thursday) marked the end of their imprisonment, their time in an armed group and the start of a new life. With the establishment of a new unity government in South Sudan and hopefully prolonged peace, we have a golden opportunity to ensure there are no children left in the barracks,” Mohamed Ag Ayoya, UNICEF representative in South Sudan, said in a statement issued in Juba.
UNICEF said the children will be reunified with their immediate family as soon as UNICEF and partners are able to locate them.
It said if families are not found, foster families are arranged while their search for their family continues.
The UN agency said children are enrolled in a three-year-long reintegration program where a dedicated social worker will guide them through the long and often complicated way back to civilian life.
The release is a collaborated effort between UNICEF and the UN Mission to South Sudan and the National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission.
UNICEF has appealed for 4.2 million U.S. dollars to support the release of some 2,100 children associated with armed forces and armed groups and the continuation of the reintegration program for formerly and newly released children in South Sudan. Enditem