A UN expert on Monday expressed concern about the increased risk of recruitment and use of children by armed groups since the outbreak of conflict in Sudan.
Speaking about the conflict between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) that broke out earlier this year, Siobhan Mullally, the UN special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, said: "Unaccompanied children and children from poor families are allegedly targeted by RSF in the outskirts of Khartoum, as well as in Darfur and West Kordofan, for recruitment into combat roles."
Girls have also reportedly been abducted from Khartoum to Darfur for sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.
"The deteriorating humanitarian situation and lack of access to food and other basic services make children, especially unaccompanied and separated children on the streets, easy targets for recruitment by armed groups," Mullally said in a written statement.
Sudan has been ravaged by fighting between the army and the RSF since April, in a conflict that killed more than 3,000 civilians and injured thousands, according to local medics.
Several cease-fire agreements brokered by Saudi and US mediators between the warring rivals have failed to end violence in the country.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that nearly four million people have been displaced by the current conflict in Sudan.
Responding to claims that children may join armed groups as a survival strategy, the UN expert said that the consent of a child (defined as any person under 18) is legally irrelevant.
"The recruitment of children by armed groups for any form of exploitation-including in combat roles-is a gross violation of human rights, a serious crime, and a violation of international humanitarian law," she said.
A recent update on the situation in Sudan by the Global Protection Cluster reported that 72 humanitarian offices and assets had been attacked or looted, and 19 humanitarian workers had been killed as of October 2023.
Mullally called on all parties in the conflict to return to peace talks and reach a comprehensive cease-fire agreement that would allow for the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance and ensure accountability for alleged violations.