30 November 2018

Central African Republic: UNICEF Says Crisis Grossly Overlooked

Photo: Thomson Reuters Foundation/Kieran Guilbert
Central African Republic Refugee in Cameroon

Two thirds children in the Central African Republic need humanitarian assistance, while one in four is displaced or a refugee. Those are the latest findings in a report published 30 November by the United Nations Children Agency, UNICEF.

The report, entitled "Crisis in the Central African Republic - In a neglected emergency, children need aid, protection -and a future" stresses the lack of attention on the crisis that has fallen under the international radar.

Marixie Mercado, the author of the report told RFI "we, [Unicef] are projecting that there will be 1.5 million children in need of humanitarian assistance in 2019. That's an increase of 300,000 over 2016. The armed groups who now control 4/5ths of the country, have spread displacement over more and more of the country and with that displacement have come more hunger and more malnutrition."

"So there are more children than ever malnourished now requiring life-saving treatment" she adds.

Violence since 2013

In 2013, the country was hit by violence after longtime President François Bozizé, a Christian, was overthrown by the Seleka, a Muslim rebel group. In response, self-defense militias, called anti-Balakas, mainly Christian, began fighting back, pushing the crisis into more violence.

Much of the country now is controlled by rivalling militia groups, rendering basic outings, such as children attending school, dangerous says Mercado:

"You can't blame teachers in CAR for not showing up to their schools in these places, they're extraordinarily dangerous. There's been a trend of attacks on schools and education personnel in the Central African Republic. That is true of health facilities, even displacement sites are attacked. Just this month, there's been two huge attacks on sites where already displaced people have come for shelter."

The top UN representative in CAR, Christin Muhigana, says the emergency in the country is one of the most neglected ones in the world.

"All of this is happening in the context of funding that has either stagnated or in the case of the overall humanitarian response, dropped quite sharply. And there's very little international attention to this crisis. CAR in 2017, the last year for which there was data, was the fourth most dangerous place to work for aid workers. That's after South Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan. And CAR gets by far less attention than other of these crisis" explains Mercado.

Since 15 November alone, the archbishop of the capital Bangui, Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga said atrocities included setting on fire children and the elderly.

But there is a sign of hope

"... if you talk to the education workers and the health workers who are doing, are working mightily to make things better for the people around them, they have hope. And if you talk to children who are going through childhoods that are unimaginable for most people, they have hope. So there is hope within people that things will get better."

Until then, the country will have a long way to go before stability is once again in place.

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