More than 8,000 children killed, injured in conflicts – UN chief

Children sit together while undergoing release from the SSDA Cobra Faction armed group, in Pibor, Jonglei State. An assault rifle lies between the feet of one of the children. On 10 February 2015 in South Sudan, UNICEF and partners oversaw the release of 300 children from the South Sudan Democratic Army (SSDA) Cobra Faction armed group, in Pibor, Jonglei State. The children surrendered their weapons and uniforms in a UNICEF-supported ceremony overseen by the South Sudan National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission and the Cobra Faction. They will spend their first night in an interim care centre, where they will be provided with food, water and clothing – and will also have access to health and psychosocial services. Their release follows that of an additional 249 children from Cobra Faction on 27 January, in the village of Gumuruk, Jonglei State. Since that time, 179 of the children have returned home to their families, while 70 children continue to live at the UNICEF-supported interim care centre as family tracing and reunification is carried out. All 249 boys attend the centre every day for meals, recreational activities and psychosocial support. Estimating that the cost for the release and reintegration of each child is approximately US$2,330 for 24 months, UNICEF is appealing for $13 million to fund the immediate needs of the released children and the vulnerable communities where they live. The children released on 27 January and 10 February are among approximately 3,000 in the Cobra Faction whose release has been secured by UNICEF and partners – in one of the largest ever such releases of children associated with armed groups or forces. The releases will continue in phases over the coming month. The released children and local communities have overwhelmingly told UNICEF that education is their number one priority. UNICEF is improving access to education in each of the release locations by either strengthening existing facilities or pr

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called it unacceptable and appalling that more than 8,000 children were killed and injured in conflicts last year from Syria and Yemen to Congo and Afghanistan.

The UN chief said Thursday in his annual report on Children and Armed Conflict that the UN verified 3,512 child casualties in Afghanistan, over 40 percent of the total and “the highest number ever recorded” in the country, AP reports.

The recruitment and use of children in conflict more than doubled in Somalia and Syria compared with 2015. The UN verified 169 incidents affecting at least 1,022 youngsters in South Sudan – over 60 percent of them recruited and used by government security forces, Guterres said.