Thousands of child soldiers who were forced to fight in South Sudan’s civil war are unlikely to be rescued anytime soon.
The UN explained that aid agencies simply do not have the funding to look after them. Funding to help reintegrate child soldiers has been halved over the past seven years while needs have doubled.
The government signed a peace deal with rebel factions in September, ending a civil war that left at 50,000 people dead.
While 900 child soldiers have been released since January, many more are still trapped in the bush according to Virginia Gamba, U.N. envoy for children and armed conflict.
“The first group of released children … kept telling me that at least two or three of their friends were still in the bush waiting to be released or waiting to be negotiated and asking me to intervene on their behalf,” she said.
“We are talking of thousands still out there.”
Gamba, who has spoken to former child soldiers in the country, said a lack of resources to re-integrate the children meant they remained at extremely high risk of abuse.
“For every day that a kid is in the bush they will be revictimised, there’s just no question about it.”
After being abducted, children might be raped or sent to attack their own families to sever their ties to home. Escape attempts were punished by hand amputation or molten plastic poured onto the skin, Gamba said: “They were terrified.”
Four-fifths of the violations were committed by the army, but all warring parties were guilty, Gamba said.
Gamba says that the horrors and human rights violations suffered by child soldiers in South Sudan go far beyond that seen in Syria and Afghanistan.
“It is really huge, it’s quite gross. I mean, decapitation of children, the use of sexual violation against very small children as part of a weapon and a tactic of war to cow communities, the abduction of children, the recruitment of children, forced use of children in support of war efforts,” she said.
It is hoped that joint action plan signed by South Sudan and the UN will allow aid workers reach deep into the former war zone and verify the number of children trapped in military camps.
Chip in and help end modern slavery once and for all.