Children increasingly targeted in Central African Republic violence
BANGUI/DAKAR/NEW YORK/GENEVA, 18 July 2017 – Months of renewed fighting in the Central African Republic (CAR) have led to an increasing number of violent acts committed against children, including murders, abductions, rape and recruitment into armed groups – UNICEF warned today.
The UN children’s agency said that the true number of atrocities suffered by children over the past three months in CAR is almost certain to be much higher than officially reported figures because humanitarian access in many areas has been severely limited by insecurity. These conditions have greatly reduced the ability of aid workers to report incidents and assist victims. Nevertheless, information gathered by UNICEF since May indicates that armed groups are frequently targeting children during attacks on villages or towns.
“Children in CAR have suffered disproportionately from the waves of violence that have swept the country over the past three years,” said Christine Muhigana, UNICEF Representative in the Central African Republic. “Armed groups and parties to the conflict must cease these flagrant violations of children’s rights and make every effort to keep children safe.”
In several incidents in Bria (Eastern CAR), 14 girls aged 9 to 16 were raped by members of armed groups during the recent outbreaks of violence in May and June. These assaults occurred when the girls left IDP sites to travel home for personal belongings.
Many crimes of sexual violence continue to go unreported.
In another incident in Bangassou (South East CAR) five children aged 2 to 16 were brutally killed in May while attempting to cross the river to seek refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During the same month, in a village near Berberati, eight boys aged 13 to 17 were abducted – one has since been killed, while the kidnappers demanded ransom to free the others.
In addition to these brutal crimes, the intensification of violent conflict and related operations by armed groups has resulted in thousands of children being denied their most basic rights to education and health. It is estimated that a total of 94,000 primary school children could not take their end of year examinations because of school closures due to insecurity. Meanwhile, looting by armed groups has caused many health centres to close, stopping essential care and routine immunization for children.