UNICEF alert over children’s plight in Central African Republic

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Years of conflict in the Central African Republic mean most children there threatened with war, disease and hunger and are in dire need of help, the UN children’s agency said. And things are only getting worse.

Five years after the outbreak of a civil war in the Central African Republic (CAR) about two-thirds of all children are in need of humanitarian assistance, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said on Friday.

Fighting since 2013 has uprooted more than a million people, with some 2.9 million of the 4.6 million population needing aid. The risk of far more severe famine looms in years to come if people are not able to return to the fields, UNICEF warned.

In its Child Alert report, the agency warned of a “neglected crisis” and “alarming malnutrition rates” that would place more than 43,000 children below the age of five at an extremely high risk of death from severe acute malnutrition in 2019.

Such levels of malnutrition leave children at serious risk of developing often deadly diseases such as malaria, measles or cholera.

“The skeletal bodies of children fortunate enough to make it to the nutrition ward at CAR’s only pediatric hospital virtually scream ‘famine,'” the report said. “Almost every Central African child needs protection from the fighting and its far-reaching effects.”

“This crisis is taking place in one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Conditions for children are desperate,” said UNICEF representative on CAR Christine Muhigana.

A quarter of all children in CAR had fled their homes, the report said, and thousands had been coerced into fighting in armed groups or being used as sex slaves in armed groups.

 

Violence has wracked CAR since 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels toppled the president. That led to a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.

Some dozen militia groups — battling each other over cattle routes and lands rich in diamonds, gold and uranium — often make targets of schools, clinics and sites for displaced people, UNICEF said.

rc/sms (dpa, Reuters)

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