UN: Thousands of child soldiers still in South Sudan military camps

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The United Nations has warned that thousands of child soldiers in South Sudan remain in military camps, unlikely to be freed due to a lack of funds for aid agencies fighting for their release.

South Sudan’s leaders signed a peace deal in September that brought an end to the country’s civil war, which raged on for five years. Thousands of children were recruited as soldiers during the conflict and the UN is working to have them all released but UN envoy Virginia Gamba says funds are running short.

Thousands of children still trapped in military camps

Gamba says UN funds for retrieving child soldiers and reintegrating them into society has halved over the past seven years while its needs have doubled over the same period. Since January, 900 child soldiers have been released and the UN envoy expects a further 1,000 to be released by the end of the year although she insists thousands more remain.

A funds shortage leaves the UN in a difficult position, Gamba says. She says that every day children are held at military camps the risk of them being victimised increases but the UN is already pushed to its limits with trying to reintegrate the children already released back into society.

She warns the UN simply can’t handle a mass release of child soldiers, which is restricting the agency’s ability to push for the release of more child soldiers sooner.

After being abducted, many child soldiers are raped or forced back home to attack their families. Various children released this year have given accounts of being forced to kill their own parents and reports continue to detail the horrific violations against young children during the civil war – including decapitation, sexual violence and the use of sexual violence against children as a tactic of war.

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About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.