Unicef has managed to aid in the release of 145 child soldiers who had been recruited by armed forces in South Sudan, according to a statement released on 26 October. The organisation stated that this is the largest group to be freed since 2015, when 1,775 children were released in the Greater Pibor administrative area.
The children, who had been fighting for the Cobra Faction and the SPLA in Opposition, were formally disarmed and provided with medical checkups before being registered for a reintegration programme.
"Our hope is that today's release will be followed by many others so that the 16,000 children who are still in armed forces and armed groups will be able to return to their families," said Mahimbo Mdoe, Unicef's Representative in South Sudan.
Mdoe explained that due to ongoing conflict in the region, recruitment of child soldiers was still rampant. "Unicef continues to receive reports about the recruitment of children in Unity, Jonglei and other states. We urge all parties to abide by international law, to end recruitment and to release children who are currently serving in their ranks," he added.
According to the UN agency, an estimated 16,000 children have been recruited by armed forces and armed groups in South Sudan since the onset of fighting that began in December 2013. More than 800 children are estimated to have been recruited since the beginning of 2016.
Following the joint effort by Unicef and the Government of South Sudan's National Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission, the released children will now receive counselling and psychosocial support. They will be placed in an interim care centre, until their families can be traced, following which, they will be provided with three months' worth of food assistance as a take-home package as well as livestock to supplement household income during the reintegration process.