Bangui — Following a rebel attack in the Northeast of the Central African Republic and threats of more in surrounding areas, UNICEF and partners evacuated 64 children who had been released from armed groups but would be at risk of being re-recruited.
The children were living in transit centres in the towns of N'dele and Bria. The centres, which provide temporary shelter, care, support, and reintegration programmes to children released from armed groups, became too dangerous for the children to remain in as the risk that advancing rebels would re-recruit them was very high.
The northern town of N'dele was taken over by rebel groups on 11 December. UNICEF and partners managed to secure the children in the transit centres in N'dele and get them out by air to Bangui, following the rebel attack on the town. Simultaneously, as the risk of an attack on Bria seemed likely, children from Bria were evacuated to Bangui by road. Bria was subsequently attacked on 18 December and the transit centre was looted.
"The situation in N'dele and Bria remains precarious and children living at the transit centres were particularly vulnerable as they are either separated from their families or have lost their parents. Our top priority was to move these children to a safer place as soon as possible," said UNICEF CAR Representative Souleymane Diabate.
UNICEF has established a temporary centre in Bangui with partners DRC and COOPI.
UNICEF staff are on site to provide technical and programmatic guidance to make sure that the children continue to receive healthcare, psychosocial support and have access to education and vocational opportunities.
The girls and boys, who are staying in separate residences, have been provided with blankets, soap, mosquito nets, jerry cans, water purification tablets, and recreational materials. The presence of on-site staff and psychologists allow the centre to operate 24 hours a day.
In addition, UNICEF is working with community leaders to gain the support of communities and prevent stigmatization of the children. As the security situation remains fluid in the communities that originally hosted these children, UNICEF is working with partners to identify longer-term support in Bangui until the children can be safely reunified with their families.
About the UN task force on children associated with armed groups or forces
In 2005, the Security Council requested in Resolution 1612 the UN Secretary-General to establish a monitoring and reporting mechanism, managed by country-based UN task forces to provide timely and reliable information on grave violations of children's rights in situations of armed conflict. In conflict affected countries, the UN task force collects information on the six grave violations committed against children: the recruitment or use of children, abducting, killing, maiming, rape or other sexual violence; attacks on schools and hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access. The UN task force engages with government forces and rebel groups to develop action plans to end and prevent these violations from taking place. In coordinating with the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the UN task force develops the tools, guidelines, and training materials necessary to strengthen the monitoring and reporting mechanism.