Sudan's young endure "unspeakable" abuse: report By Evelyn Leopold
Thu Apr 19, 5:13 AM ET
Children in Sudan are press-ganged, coerced to join armed groups, raped and used as forced labor or sex slaves, according to a new report by humanitarian groups.
The report, Sudan's Children at a Crossroads, concentrates mainly on Darfur, where a conflict has been raging for four years, and southern Sudan, emerging from 20 years of war.
"Children in Sudan continue to endure some of the most inhumane treatment found anywhere in the world," said Kathleen Hunt, chair of the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, on Wednesday.
"Despite the end of the war in the south and recent signs of hope for a strengthened peacekeeping force in Darfur, many Sudanese children are not faring any better than they were four years ago," Hunt told a news conference on the report, compiled by six humanitarian organizations.
While Sudan's military continues to deny the presence of children in its ranks, the report said its representatives have acknowledged that youth from other armed groups have recently been incorporated into the government armed forces.
In Darfur, most rebel and militia groups recruit children, including the pro-government Arab militias known as the Janjaweed, the rebel Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army.
While reports of rape and maiming are prevalent in Darfur, Sudanese girls from other areas have been forced into prostitution or into domestic service in and out of Sudan.
Boys as young as 4 or 5 years old "have been trafficked to Arab Gulf countries to work as camel jockeys and beggars," Watchlist said.
Education is also a horror in many parts of the country, with the south having the lowest rate in the world of only 25 percent of young people in school.
An entire generation in southern Sudan has missed out on education, said Jeannie Pearlman Robinson of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children. She cited examples of children walking for two hours to school and untrained teachers working for low or no pay.
"Education cannot wait until the fighting is over," she said.
Francis Mading Deng, a former Sudanese foreign minister, U.N. envoy for displaced people, author and now a professor at Johns Hopkins University, said that children and civilians could only be spared through a political solution.
"The need for a political solution is the only way we can find peace," he said.
The six groups on the Watchlist steering committee are Care International, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, the Norwegian Refugee Council, International Save the Children Alliance, Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, and World Vision Canada.