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Central African Republic in turmoil - UNICEF calls on all parties to protect children

2013-03-26

An emergency with slim funding

GENEVA/BANGUI, 26 March 2013 – The lives of 600,000 children in Central African Republic are being seriously affected by the ongoing conflict across the country, UNICEF warned today. The agency called on all parties to lay down their arms and to ensure the wellbeing of children.

While the UN, including UNICEF have temporarily relocated non-essential staff from CAR to neighboring Cameroon following the rebel takeover of the impoverished country, over 60 UNICEF staff are still working to deliver supplies to children in country.

The challenges are daunting. The blockage of roads, the presence of armed groups, and the potential risk of pillage and attacks is preventing the massive distribution of supplies from taking place.

Even before the trouble began, an estimated 13,500 children were expected to suffer from life-threatening malnutrition this year. Most doctors have left and many nutrition centres are closed and looted.

Over the past three months, basic health, nutrition and education services have been disrupted in many communities in most of the rebel-controlled areas. During missions to Kaga-Bandoro, Bossangoa and Bambari earlier this month, UNICEF noted shortage in life-saving medicines in all the three towns.

With schools closed or occupied and teachers absent, at least 166,000 children are being denied access to education.

Other major risks to children include recruitment into armed groups and gender-based violence. Most vulnerable are children who have lost their homes, have been separated from their families, or were formerly associated with armed groups. Even before the current crisis, UNICEF estimates that some 2500 children, both girls and boys, were associated with armed groups in the Central African Republic.

Since January, UNICEF has brought in over 70 metric tons of supplies including medicine, water purification tablets, therapeutic food, cooking sets, tarpaulins, mosquito nets, and other essential household items.

UNICEF requires USD 11.1 million to provide life-saving support to families hit by the conflict. Before the outset of the crisis, humanitarian agencies launched a $129 million appeal for emergency assistance in 2013, but only 1 per cent of this much needed funding has been received.

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UNICEF has saved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

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For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.