© Associated Press

More than 200 children freed in South Sudan

There was welcome news from South Sudan in April as UNICEF facilitated the release of more than 200 child soldiers from armed groups in the country.

207 children, 112 boys and 95 girls, took part in the ‘laying down of the guns’ ceremony in Yambio on 16 April. This is the first community release where children have returned straight to their families instead of first going to institutions.

The announcement follows the release of 311 children in February and the UN says that a further 1,000 children will be freed in the coming months.

Children have long been used in South Sudan’s five-year civil conflict and the UN estimates that more than 19,000 boys and girls have been used by the country’s multiple groups.

Tatmadaw sanctions 47 officers for recruiting child soldiers

Dozens of officers in Myanmar’s military have been sanctioned by authorities for recruiting children into their ranks, state media reported in April.

The Myanmar Times reported the announcements from the country’s ministry of defence that 47 officers in the Tatmadaw were found guilty of using under-18s. No details of the sanctions meted out were given.

The government signed a UN action plan in 2012, with the aim of preventing military recruitment of underage children. Since then, the Tatmadaw has released 849 children and young people and taken significant steps to reduce child recruitment, but has yet to sustainably root this practice out.

In March, Aung Ko Htwe, who was recruited by the Tatmadaw as a 15-year-old, was sentenced to two years in prison after he was arrested for giving a media interview sharing his experiences of life with the state military.

© Amnesty International

Iraqi women and children with perceived ties to IS denied aid, sexually exploited and trapped in camps

Iraqi women and children with perceived ties to the Islamic State are being denied humanitarian aid and prevented from returning to their homes, with an alarming number of women subjected to sexual violence, an Amnesty International report revealed in April.

The report details the plight of thousands of female-headed families who have been left to fend for themselves in IDP camps after male family members were killed, or arbitrarily arrested and forcibly disappeared while fleeing IS-held areas in and around Mosul

"Iraqi women and children with perceived ties to IS are being punished for crimes they did not commit,” said Amnesty’s Lynn Maalouf.

“Cast out of their communities, these families have nowhere and no one to turn to. They are trapped in camps, ostracized and denied food, water and other essentials. This humiliating collective punishment risks laying the foundation for future violence. It is no way to build the just and sustainable peace that Iraqis so desperately desire and need.

Kidnapped as schoolgirls by Boko Haram: here they are now

Four years after the abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria by Boko Haram, the New York Times meets some of those who have since been freed and are trying to readjust to normal life at university.

Accompanied by a striking photo essay, the article tells the story of the Chibok girls in detail, sharing various accounts and perspectives along the way. Its focus is on the American University in Yola where more than 100 of the freed girls are trying to rebuild their lives.

“I’m happy,” said Ms. Ntakai, one of the girls. Now, she is a 20-year-old student who rises at dawn for Saturday yoga class and argues about the benefits and dangers of social media during debate night at the university.

“But I’m thinking about my sisters who are still in the back,” in Boko Haram’s clutches, she said.