The children in South Sudan are not only unfortunate that they were born in a conflict zone. The saddest part of their story is that they are also forced to become child soldiers and fight the war they have no part of.
These children who are recruited or forced by poverty to join armed forces and groups are not just denied of their fundamental right to life, education, healthcare and shelter, but eventually endure all forms of abuses and exploitations.
The physical, psychological and emotional harms inflicted on them have incredible impact on their life. This is a violation of human rights law and must be stopped. I have sadly witnessed a child’s desperation attempting to end his own life a three days after returning home from captivity.
It shows the painful, even unthinkable, experience these children go through. We must do something now to hasten the release of those who are in still in captivity and ensure that recruitment stops.
On this Red Hand Day, World Vision joins the rest of the world for the call to end the use of child soldiers in South Sudan. It is unacceptable that there are children who are made to carry a gun and join the battle in the frontline.
Instead, they should be given the opportunity to live in a better world outside of South Sudan’s conflict. What they need is to have quality education rather than sent for military training.
The Red Hand Day is also a time to invigorate our long struggle against child rights violations in South Sudan, and open up opportunities for these children never to be left behind.
What they need is to have quality education rather than sent for military training.
Thus, we are grateful of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) for funding the Focusing on Children with Unmet Child Protection Needs in South Sudan (FOCUS) Project in Western Equatoria State.
Currently, these former child soldiers, along with many vulnerable children, were attending vocational training, while 84 are enrolled in primary and secondary schools. The project continues its support for family tracing and reunification.
The project also provides psychosocial support and legal aid to the survivors, create community awareness on how people can support to prevent recruitment, abuse and exploitation.
While we are happy the project is making good progress, the challenges are still many. We realized that addressing the needs of these children should not only end in their reintegration.
It should go further and address the factors that push children to become child soldiers and provide support, as well, for the children conceived and born during captivity.
Together with Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), the project involves key actors in the communities such as the faith leaders, local leaders, government officials and child advocates in its campaign.
Children deserve a better life and we have to put an end to their suffering. Let us play our part not just in words but also with action to end the recruitment of child soldiers.
Download our Case Study - No Choice: It Takes A World to End the Use of Child Soldiers
By Denis Bambura Arkanjelo, FOCUS Project Manager