UNICEF welcomes release of 85 children from armed forces in North Kivu

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Agency calls for release of all children from armed groups

UNICEF welcomed today the release of 85 children by the Mayi Mayi armed group in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

All 85 are now receiving protection and assistance from UNICEF and its partners who are also starting the process of trying to reunite the children with their families.

“The release of these children is very encouraging as they can now start the long road to recovery,” said Ms. Pierrette Vu Thi, UNICEF representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “The challenges for UNICEF now are to help these children heal and to ensure that the thousands of children who remain with armed groups are also released and returned to their families as soon as possible."

Of these children, 65 were released on 29 January, and another 20 on 1 February. The children are between the ages of 7 and 17, five of them being girls.

A number of armed groups in North Kivu, including the National Congress for People’s Defence, Pareco and the Mayi Mayi, have verbally agreed to release all children in their ranks. It is expected that a written agreement will be signed in the next few days.

If the agreement holds, UNICEF and partners estimate that 1,500 children could be withdrawn from armed groups in the next three months.