Both sides in the conflict are heavily armed

More than 650 children have been recruited into armed groups in South Sudan since the beginning of the year, the UN children’s agency Unicef has said.

Supporters of President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar had both intensified their recruitment drives since July, when a new round of conflict broke out, Unicef added.

A senior politician led the recruitment of the boys, some as young as 12, from a village, using intimidation, it adds.

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The document indicates that the recruitment of children took place shortly after the UN Security Council approved a resolution about a week ago to send an extra 4,000 troops to South Sudan to protect civilians after a new round of fighting broke out in the capital, Juba, last month, AP reports.

Speaking to the press after visiting South Sudan, Unicef deputy executive director Justin Forsyth said:

“You see child soldiers as you drive along the roads, just in uniforms and who have been recently recruited.”

Mr Forsyth said there was widespread malnutrition and some areas faced a threat of famine: “We have to be honest, we’re doing sticking-plaster jobs. I mean we’re trying to save children’s lives, save mothers’ lives. It’s a sticking-plaster.”

“The only long-term sustainable solution to this problem is if the different parties to the conflict resolve their differences and establish proper governance in South Sudan. And until that happens we’ll continue to be on the brink of this very serious situation, which may tip over.”

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