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Nightmares that were once reality: UNICEF launches new video series

Merio Jimmy via UNICEF, Juba

Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

UNICEF have recently announced the launch of a video series portraying the nightmares of children associated with armed forces and armed groups (CAAFAG).

'The nightmare that continues to haunt my is my dad being slaughtered by the group that captured me', said Joseph, who was only 13 when he was kidnapped, forced to fight and had to watch his father being killed.

Joseph is one of five children featured in the video series 'When I Close My Eyes', launched by UNICEF today.

The series is focusing on recurring nightmares as a common reaction in children associated with armed forces and armed groups and its devastating effects. It affects their sleep, ability to focus, and daily capacity to function. They often struggle at school, become irritated and aggressive or withdraw from society and their peers completely. As the world commemorates the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers on 12 February, UNICEF is highlighting the damaging effects armed conflict has on children directly involved in atrocities.

'While physical wounds are quickly attended to, psychological wounds often remain bleeding and unattended to', said Andrea Suley, UNICEF South Sudan Representative.

'For children used by armed forces and armed groups to be able to rebuild their lives and create a future for themselves, they must be given adequate psychosocial support and treatment when needed'.

South Sudan's mental health care system is underdeveloped, with only one psychiatric ward, few beds and even fewer specialists across the country. .

Despite this, good work can still be done at a community level through close support and follow up treatment from social workers. Every child in the UNICEF supported reintegration programme for CAAFAGs is given a dedicated social worker for three years.

'Since I met with my social worker, she has helped me with so many things, so that’s why I’m not dreaming anymore', said Sara. She was only 10 years old when she was forced into an armed group. She used to have nightmares several times per week after she was released.

'The children’s stories are strong testimonies of the importance of ending the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. UNICEF is urging all parties to the conflict in South Sudan to honour their commitments to not violate the rights of  children and for the government to secure funding for full implementation of the comprehensive action plan against the six grave violations against children in armed conflict', noted Suley for UNICEF.

The videos are available for everyone on UNICEF South Sudan’s YouTube Channel.

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