JUBA, Aug. 7 (Xinhua/GNA) - The UN children's
fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday said more child soldiers totaling 128 have been
released from a disbanded rebel group in Yambio located in South Sudan's
southern region of Western Equatoria.
In a statement, UNICEF said some 90 boys and 38 girls have been released from the South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army-in opposition (SPLA-IO) groups, hence making it 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. It revealed that since February over 900 children have been released from armed groups.
UNICEF said the released children were formally disarmed and provided with civilian clothes and that medical screenings will now be carried out, and the children will receive counseling and psychosocial support as part of the reintegration program, which is implemented by UNICEF and partners. It added 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 (WFP) 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," it said. "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.