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Grave violations against children in S. Sudan declined: UN

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January 12, 2021 (NEW YORK) - There has been a significant decrease in violations against children in South Sudan since the revitalised peace agreement was signed in 2018, the United Nations said in its latest report on children and armed conflict.

Child soldiers sit with their rifles at a ceremony held on 10 February 2015 as part of a disarmament campaign overseen by UNICEF and partners in Pibor (AFP)

The report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, which was released on Monday, covered the period between July 2018 and June 2020.

“I am encouraged by the significant decrease in grave violations against children in South Sudan since the last report of the Secretary-General. I commend the parties to the Revitalized Peace Agreement for their commitment to end and prevent violations and encourage them to continue their efforts and their close cooperation with the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting”, said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.

The UN report, however, recommends that more needs to be done to protect children affected by the ongoing conflict in the country.

“Despite this progress, I remain concerned about the situation of children in South Sudan and I urge all parties to fully implement every preventive and protective measure established in the framework of the Comprehensive Action Plan signed with the United Nations in February 2020 and to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law,” said Gamba.

The word body noted that grave violations continue to be committed against children by all parties to the conflict, saying it verified over 700 grave violations against children across South Sudan, with the Central Equatoria state being the most affected.

The majority of violations, it stated, are attributed to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in-Opposition (SPLA-IO) and government security forces, including the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces.

According to the UN, recruitment and use of children remained the most prevalent violation with more than 300 children affected, of whom 48% were used in active combat, and it was often connected to other grave violations, particularly abduction.

It said more than a third of these children were abducted by parties to the conflict.

“I call upon all parties to immediately stop the recruitment and use of children, release and hand them over to child protection actors, in accordance with established protocols, and enable the full and smooth reintegration of children into their communities”, said Gamba.

Also highlighted in the new report on South Sudan are cases of rape, including gang rape, and other forms of sexual violence against children that continued to be committed and the vast majority of incidents were attributed to government security forces.

According to the UN, attacks on schools and hospitals continued, as well as their military use by parties to conflict, which is estimated to have affected the access to education of over 14,000 children.

“It is vital that parties to conflict refrain from using schools and hospitals for military purposes,” stressed the senior UN official.

She added, “Children should be able to access education and health services without fearing attacks and I call on all parties to undertake all the possible preventive measures during the conduct of their military operations”.

Meanwhile, the Special Representative welcomed the inclusion of child protection provisions in the agreement and highlighted the importance of taking child protection concerns into account at the early stages of any future peace negotiations. She, however, called for the wide dissemination and implementation of the practical guidance for mediators to protect children in situations of armed conflict launched in February 2020.

(ST)

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