JUBA, Virginia Gamba, UN special representative of the secretary-general for children and armed conflict, has condemned rampant violence perpetrated against children in war-torn South Sudan.

Gamba, who is on a four-day visit to the East African nation, said recruitment of children into armed groups, sexual violence, abductions, killing, attacks on schools and denial of humanitarian aid are rife as children continue to suffer the brunt of nearly five years of civil war.

“I’m extremely concerned at the level of violence against children particularly in the Upper Nile and the Unity states. Either directly or indirectly, we are making children victims of our own greedy wars,” Gamba told reporters during a visit to the southwestern town of Yambio, where over 800 child soldiers were recently freed by armed groups.

She said out of 20 global situations of children suffering violations, South Sudan is the second with extreme violence with at least 21,000 violations verified last year.

The UN envoy urged all armed actors in the conflict to end the recruitment of children, and release all children in the ranks of all armed forces.

“The time has actually come where violence has to stop against children particularly in South Sudan,” Gamba said.

“If you have privilege of governing a sovereign state, you have to be responsible and accountable for everything that happens in it.”

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.

According to the UN children’s agency UNICEF, at least 19,000 children are still serving in the ranks of several armed groups in South Sudan.

While in South Sudan, Gamba held meetings with government officials, religious leaders and aid organizations as well as members of the UN family to discuss opportunities to strengthen the protection and empowerment of children.

“A lot of the children of South Sudan are alone, they have nowhere to go, they have been orphaned, and there are children in the streets in almost every state in South Sudan. Boys and girls, and babies are in the streets. Who owns them? South Sudan!” Gamba said.

“The street children of South Sudan are the future of South Sudan. I have begged you to go out and reclaim the streets,” she added.