Hunger, exploitation and lack of education – life for children in Central African Republic

Unicef Car Report 2018 1
Llife is harsh and fraught with danger for children in Central African Republic. (UNICEF / Gilbertson)

Child marriage, Child soldiers, Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies, Refugees and internally displaced people, Safe schools, Safe Schools Declaration

Malnutrition, fear and unsafe schools are all rife in a country controlled by militia groups.

A “neglected” humanitarian crisis is now touching the life of almost every child in conflict-torn Central African Republic.

Huge numbers are at risk of death from malnutrition. Few make it all the way through school. Nearly a third of girls are married before they are 15 and two-thirds by 18. 

The majority of the country is controlled by militia groups and thousands of children are recruited into armed groups. Many more are sexually exploited and abused.

The scale of the nightmare that continues to unfold in the Central African Republic has been laid bare by a report today that reveals two-thirds of all children – 1.5 million of them – need emergency aid. That’s an increase of 300,000 in the past two years.

“What we are trying to do under these extraordinary circumstances is to keep children alive,” said Christine Muhigana, UNICEF’s top representative in CAR.

The report from the United Nations children’s agency says more than 43,000 under-fives are at a high risk of dying during 2019 due to severe acute malnutrition.

Unicef Car Report 2018 2

Internally displaced children take part in activities at a child-friendly space at Elevage camp in Bambari, Central African Republic (UNICEF / Gilbertson)

One in four children have been displaced from their homes. Many were separated from their parents during violence and ended up alone in displacement sites or living out in the open. 

Many schools across the country have been shut down because of the ongoing violence or because they have no teachers.

“We need security. Once we have security, you will see all the schools reopen and all the children return,” Gbiassango Kommando Alain, director of the L’Ecole Application Mixte school, told UNICEF. 

“Everything that has happened in this country is because people have had no education – so they have become bandits and rebels.”

Olivier Mirindi-Chiza, Chief of UNICEF Bambari Field Office, said: “Whether by the ex-Seleka or the anti-Balaka, children’s rights are trampled on. Both kill children, use them in fighting and attack, loot and occupy their schools.”

Fewer than three in five of CAR’s children make it through primary school and just 6% complete secondary school. 

UNICEF has helped set up hundreds of temporary learning spaces and trained thousands of community teachers in CAR. 

It has also established catch-up programmes for children who have missed out on classes since 2014, when more than 65% of schools across the country were closed or not operating normally due to the fighting.

Theirworld and others have been campaigning for schools to be safe places for children to learn and be with their peers. While the majority of the 15 current members of the Security Council have signed the Safe Schools Declaration, only two of the five permanent members have done so.

France and the United Kingdom have shown the way by endorsing the declaration and we are calling on China, Russia and the United States to follow their lead.

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