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More children killed in Central African Republic amidst escalating violence

2013-04-17

BANGUI/DAKAR/GENEVA, 17 April 2013 – In the face of the intensifying violence in the Central African Republic, including on a playing field and a church, more and more children are being killed and injured, says UNICEF. UNICEF is calling on all armed groups to stop actions that are putting civilian lives at risk, either through fighting or by preventing humanitarian aid reaching those in need.

 “Children are caught in the crossfire in their daily activities, when playing football or attending church. This is outrageous,” said Souleymane Diabate, UNICEF’s Representative in the Central African Republic (CAR). “Today, there is less and less place where children from the Central African Republic are safe”.

Three weeks after the Seleka rebel alliance seized power in a military coup, widespread insecurity, looting and violence have put the lives of Central African children at greater risk than ever. Since last Friday, fighting taking place in the capital city of Bangui has claimed the lives of at least three children and left 25 others injured, with four of those in critical condition.

Since renewed clashes erupted at the end of March, many other children have been victims of stray bullets, while others have been recruited into armed groups.  There has also been a documented increase in cases of sexual violence.

“We are seeing a country quickly sliding down into a spiral of chaos with more children’s lives endangered,” said Diabate. “Violence against children must stop. These acts in which innocent people have been killed and wounded must be investigated immediately by the authorities in power”.

Last week, UNICEF distributed emergency basic obstetric surgical kits, health equipment and medicines to 15 health centres, four hospitals and a maternity clinic in and around Bangui. Children injured last week have received emergency medical care with UNICEF supplies.

Yet, there is still a severe shortage of surgical facilities, supplies, and qualified doctors and nurses across the country as insecurity continues to prevent humanitarian access to much of the country.

UNICEF calls on the international community to mobilize urgently needed humanitarian funding and to actively engage in promoting conflict resolution efforts to immediately halt the ongoing violence before it sinks into total anarchy and eliminates any hope for the future of CAR’s children.

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Notes to the editors

On Friday 12 April, in an effort to find some normalcy amongst ongoing fighting and fear, a group of more than 20 children between the ages of five and twelve years old were playing on a playing field in Bangui’s 5th arrondissement when a rocket propelled grenade landed in the midst of their game. The 14 injured were immediately taken to Bangui’s overwhelmed Pediatric Hospital for treatment, two young children required emergency surgery.

On Sunday the 14 April during a morning church service in Bangui in the 4th arrondissement, a rocket came through the roof and exploded. Seven people were killed immediately, including three babies, while 11 children between 5-8 years were transferred to the Pediatric hospital.  7 of these children received emergency surgery and three had their legs amputated.

Killing and maiming of children is a grave violation of children’s rights and constitutes war crimes punishable by the International Criminal Court. 

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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.