Rise in child recruitment as conflict in South Sudan enters fourth year
Three years after fighting first erupted in South Sudan, children continue to be recruited by armed forces and armed groups, with 1,300 children recruited in 2016, UNICEF said today. This brings to more than 17,000 the total number of children used in the conflict since 2013.
“Since the first day of this conflict, children have been the ones most devastatingly affected by the violations,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala. “Now, as the fighting intensifies – and despite repeated pledges by all to end child recruitment – children are once again being targeted.”
Since November, the UN has documented at least 50 children who were abducted and recruited in the Greater Upper Nile region, with unverified reports that an additional 50 children may have been recruited in the Greater Bahr el Ghazal region. The UN has also received reports of grave violations against children committed in the Greater Equatorias region; however, due to high insecurity and restricted access, it has not been possible to verify these reports.
A total of 1,932 children have been released by armed forces and armed groups– 1,755 in 2015 and 177 this year.
The two largest parties to the conflict – the SPLA and the SPLA in Opposition - have both signed agreements with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment and the use of children.
As the children of South Sudan continue to search for the peace dividend that independence promised, violations of child rights have been widespread throughout the conflict, UNICEF said, with children having been killed, abducted and sexually assaulted. Since 2013, UNICEF and partners have documented:
- 2,342 children killed or maimed
- 3,090 children abducted
- 1,130 children sexually assaulted
- 303 incidents of attacks on or military use of schools or hospitals
Ongoing insecurity, combined with an economic crisis that has pushed inflation above 800 percent, has also created widespread food insecurity, with malnutrition among children having reached emergency levels in most parts of the country.
So far this year, UNICEF and partners have admitted 184,000 children for treatment of severe malnutrition. That is 50 percent higher than the number treated last year and an increase of 135 percent over 2014.
“UNICEF’s concern is that with the prospect of increased hostilities and atrocities, the suffering that children have endured will have no end,” said Ms Gharagozloo-Pakkala. “The children of South Sudan must no longer live under constant fear of hunger or conflict. They need sustained peace, care and support.”