Nepal: UK to help released child soldiers

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The UK is set to help ex-child soldiers reintegrate back into local communities across Nepal following the release of 3000 former combatants from Maoist military camps over the coming weeks (Thursday 7 January 2010) International Development Minister Mike Foster announced today.

The Department for International Development will provide an additional =A32 million to the United Nations Peace Fund for Nepal to enable the UN to provide education and skills training to those being released from the camps this morning.

28 temporary cantonments, or military camps, were set up to house the Maoist Army after the 2006 peace agreement. The UK helped finance the construction and maintenance of these camps through the Government of Nepal's peace fund.

3,000 of the approximately 24,000 combatants in the camps were deemed to have been recruited while under the age of 18. After years of negotiation, these former child combatants are at last being released.

The UK's contribution will allow the UN to work with the Government of Nepal to provide tailor-made packages to reintegrate young people back into their communities. The former combatants will be offered a return to formal education at their local school or the chance to take part in training programmes to learn the skills they need to get a job.

Local communities will also be given practical advice on how to receive the ex-child soldiers and facilitate and monitor their reintegration back into society.

International Development Minister Mike Foster said:

'This is an important step forward for the peace process in Nepal. When I visited the camps last year, I heard for myself how young people living in the camps have been stuck for three years waiting to return home.

'Now they are free to leave, the UK will help them return home and rebuild their lives, giving them the chance of a brighter future'

The first 171 former combatants were released this morning. The Government of Nepal has indicated that all the 3,000 ex-child combatants will be released over the coming weeks, together with an additional 1,000 'late recruits' who joined after the 2006 ceasefire.

The UK is the largest donor to the UN and the Government peace trust funds, having so far contributed over =A313 million.