The South Sudan armed groups have released 300 child soldiers to the United Nation agencies.
The exercise undertaken in Yambio in the south-western region of the country, led to the freeing of 87 girls and 213 boys, marking the first phase of the overall programme which is expected to secure the release of more than 700.
Speaking during the welcome ceremony on Wednesday, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for South Sudan, David Shearer said children shouldn’t be involved in war activities and atrocities.
“Children should not be carrying guns and killing each other. They should be playing, learning, having fun with friends, protected and cherished by the adults around them,” said Mr. Shearer.
Mr. Shearer appealed to the community and other stakeholders to welcome and not stigmatize the former child soldiers.
“They will have endured suffering, including sexual abuse. It is vital that they receive the support they need to re-join their communities and that they are welcomed home by family and friends without any sense of stigma,” added Mr. Shearer
The children were disarmed and were provided with civilian clothes as well as medical screenings. The UN agencies mainly UNICEF and local partners are expected to provide the children with counseling and psychosocial support as part of the reintegration programme in the coming days.
According to UNICEF, the children with relatives in area will be reunited with their families, while others will be placed in interim care centres until their families can be traced. They will also be provided with three months’ worth of food assistance and with vocational training and age-specific education services in schools and accelerated learning centres to help reach their full potential.
“Not all children are forcibly recruited. Many joined armed groups because they feel they had no other option,” said Mahimbo Mdoe, the head of UNICEF programmes in South Sudan.