from RAJI BASHIR in Khartoum, Sudan
KHARTOUM, (CAJ News) -THERE is an increased risk of recruitment and use of children by uniformed forces and armed groups as the conflict in Sudan escalates.
There are meanwhile reports of girls being abducted from the capital Khartoum to Darfur for sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.
The country is engulfed in crisis since a fallout between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) earlier this year.
“Unaccompanied children and children from poor families are allegedly targeted by RSF in the outskirts of Khartoum, as well as in Darfur and West Kordofan, for recruitment into combat roles,” said Siobhán Mullally, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
“The deteriorating humanitarian situation and lack of access to food and other basic services make children, especially unaccompanied and separated children on the streets, easy targets for recruitment by armed groups,” Mullally added.
Responding to claims that children may join armed groups as a survival strategy, the envoy recalled that the consent of a child, defined as any person under the age of 18, is legally irrelevant and that it is unnecessary to prove the use of force.
“The recruitment of children by armed groups for any form of exploitation – including in combat roles – is a gross violation of human rights, a serious crime and a violation of international humanitarian law,” she said.
The envoy expressed concern about allegations of a failure to facilitate humanitarian access to children and respect the work of all humanitarian agencies and their humanitarian partners.
A recent update on the situation in Sudan by the Global Protection Cluster reported that 72 humanitarian offices and assets had been attacked or looted and 19 humanitarian workers had been killed as of October.
Mullally called on warring parties to return to peace talks and reach a comprehensive ceasefire agreement that would allow for the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance and ensure accountability for alleged violations.
“Urgent action is needed to address these pressing concerns and take effective measures to prevent child trafficking and provide effective protection to child victims and children at risk, in particular displaced, unaccompanied and separated children, refugee children and children with disabilities,” Mullally said.
The Irish-born expert has been in contact with both the RSF and Sudanese authorities.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies meanwhile issued an urgent call for international support as the funding gap widens.
Since the conflict started, it has resulted in the displacement of over 5,8 million people within Sudan and neighboring countries.
“Many partners have come in to give technical and financial support, but the needs now outweigh the support, and we humbly request more assistance,” Aida Elsayed, Secretary General of the Sudanese Red Crescent Society.
– CAJ News