The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has raised concerns over reports of the use of children in armed groups in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province.
‘Unverified video material secured by armed forces in an abandoned training camp apparently shows abducted children as young as five handling weapons and being indoctrinated to fight’, UNICEF spokesperson, James Elder, said in a statement.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), the insurgency in northern Mozambique has left at least 730,000 people in Cabo Delgado with no access to their lands and no means of livelihood.
Food security data captured before the attacks in Palma town in late March 2021 indicated that nearly 228,000 people were highly food insecure.
When fighting broke out in March, humanitarian access to the district was completely blocked, including to tens of thousands of people who had fled the area over the violence.
‘The recruitment and use of children by armed groups destroys families and communities’, the UNICEF spokesman said.
‘Children are exposed to incomprehensible levels of violence, they lose their families, safety, and their chance to go to school. The recruitment and use of children is a grave violation of international law’.
He noted that all feasible measures should be taken to ensure that children are demobilised, disengaged, or otherwise released, and provided with all appropriate protection services for their social reintegration.
UNICEF also welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Mozambican Ministry of Defense to increase protection measures for children affected by conflict in the country.
Photo source: UNHCR/Martim Gray Pereira