The United Nations Children’s Fund is warning that there could be an increase in the number of child soldiers being forcibly recruited in South Sudan amid fears that the world’s youngest nation could be on the brink of a return to civil war.
South Sudan’s capital, Juba, was hit by a five-day violence last month despite an August 2015 peace deal.
The violence killed close to 300 people and forced thousands of others to flee to neighbouring countries.
“At this precarious stage in South Sudan’s short history, UNICEF fears that a further spike in child recruitment could be imminent,” UNICEF’s deputy executive director Justin Forsyth said in a statement after visiting South Sudan.
“The dream we all shared for the children of this young country has become a nightmare.”
UNICEF reports that about 16,000 children have been recruited into armed groups since December 2013 when the war broke out.
Forces attacking villages are reported to grab children and force them into their groups.
Following last month’s fighting, Riek Machar fled Juba with his forces, and is now said to have fled the country.