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Child soldiers on rise

The number of children being recruited as fighters this year is more than 17,000 since a military conflict erupted between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Dr. Riek Machar almost three years ago, the UN children’s fund UNICEF reports.

The National Coordinator for Child Disarmament Demobilization Reintegration at (NDDRC), Oluku Andrew Holt said according to the UNICEF reports and other agencies, the number of child soldiers in both government and other armed oppositions has raised to17, 000 this year alone.

He made the statement yesterday during the training of more than 60 SPLA officers in the department of Child Protection Unit from across the country.

“Two years ago it was reported to be 15,000 children associated with the organized forces and other armed groups but this year it has increased to 17, 000,” Holt said. “We have not verified the number because the location has not been specified”.

He stressed that national disarmament, demobilization and reintegrated commission in collaboration with the UNICEF would give the refresher cause to child disarmament, demobilization reintegrated officers of the SPLA from different states in order for those children to be reintegrated into the SPLA and then later taken to their respective families.

From 2010 to 2012 the Commission has trained more than 143 SPLA child protection officers and there is need to train more in order to have enough skills on child soldiers’ reintegration, according to Holt.

Meanwhile, SPLA head of child protection unit, Brig. Gen. Chaplain Khamis Edward, said the army is facing a lot of challenges during the reintegration process in a sense that most of the children are the orphans and other from a poor family where they cannot afford a meal in a day and that situation has forced them to go and joint the armed forces and armed groups because there is no enough food at home.

“The problem when these children are released from a certain division or battalion they sometime when taken back home and reunified with their families, they can decide to go  back to wherever  SPLA is because they  realized that in the SPLA they get food and sometime get support of money,” Edward said.

The Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF, Vedasto Nsanzagwanko  said  training of the SPLA child protection unit and the reintegration of child soldiers is their routine activities  as mandated by the task force of United Nation family  on prevention, monitoring and reporting of child rights  violation in the country.

“Reintegration programme is an inclusive community based not only catering for the children who have being released from the armed forces, but it also caters for vulnerable children in the community,” he said.

Nsanzagwanko added that they have ten children who being released from armed forces, which he said there was need to add another ten children from that targeted community so that they can get the packages of reintegration-education.

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