The use of children in armed conflict must stop: UNICEF

JUBA from South Sudan

The United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Friday reiterated its call for an immediate end to the use of children in armed conflict.

“The grotesque use of children in armed conflict is a battery of violations of children’s rights and has no place in 2021,” UNICEF South Sudan said in a statement on the occasion of International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, celebrated around the world on February 12.

The day is “based on real experiences of children in South Sudan and aims to draw attention to the psychological effects of use by armed forces and armed groups,” the agency said.

“Children are forced to execute and witness atrocities. Children are killed, injured, maimed, and mentally and sexually abused. It is life threatening and extremely damaging to children and their development and must stop now, ”the statement read.

Andrea Suley, UNICEF representative in South Sudan, called for efforts to implement existing plans.

“It is with frustration and impatience in my voice that I call on all armed entities to immediately stop the recruitment and use of children,” she said.

“I call on the government of South Sudan to allocate funds and start implementing the plan of action against all six grave violations against children in armed conflict, which was signed last year.

She stressed that there is still “very limited assistance available” for children who manage to escape or are released by armed groups.

“After being released or escaping, children often struggle with nightmares, aggressive behavior, intrusive thoughts and anxiety,” the statement read.

“Physical injuries can become lifelong disabilities if left untreated, and mental injuries can cause long-term psychological effects such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). ”

Suley said the mental health needs of children affected by conflict are “often overlooked or not addressed, as fragile health systems struggle to meet even the most basic health needs.”

“Providing children who have already been through so much with the care and support they need to rebuild their lives should be an urgent priority,” she said.

“This means increased funding for existing programs and an ambitious approach to further expand mental health care. “

It is estimated that some 19,000 children have been recruited by armed forces and armed groups in South Sudan, and UNICEF has supported the release and reintegration of 3,785 children since 2013, the statement said.

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