UN calls for the protection of Central African Republic’s children

FILE: Three former child soldiers at Elevage camp in Bambari, Central African Republic. PHOTO/UNICEF
FILE: Three former child soldiers at Elevage camp in Bambari, Central African Republic. PHOTO/UNICEF

A report on children and armed conflict in the Central African Republic showed that between  July 2019 and June 2021, 1,280 children suffered one or more grave violations, with girls accounting for more than 40 percent of all victims.

While most were committed by armed groups, five percent were attributed to the national armed forces, FACA.

“The security situation in the Central African Republic has rapidly worsened in recent months and children are paying a high price for these renewed hostilities”, said Virginia Gamba, UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

“I call on the signatories of the Political Agreement to uphold their commitments including those pertaining to children and urgently put in place concrete measures to protect children from harm and prevent further violations”.

With some 845 children affected, their recruitment and use were the most prominent of violations.

Following was rape and other forms of sexual violence, where at least 249 girls fell victim, although the actual scope is likely much worse as the crime is vastly underreported, usually for fear of reprisal, stigma, lack of accountability and support for victims and survivors.

The denial of humanitarian access was the third most verified violation, with 226 incidents.

“The situation is becoming increasingly difficult for humanitarian actors, who are struggling and facing growing dangers to reach the most vulnerable ones, including children, in dire need of life-saving assistance”, said Ms. Gamba.

Violence in the country continues to take a heavy toll on children.

The report reveals that 155 boys and girls were verified killed or maimed, most by crossfire between parties to the conflict; and 116 were abducted, more than half of them girls.

However, some progress has been made, including a strengthened national legal framework through the promulgation of the 2020 Child Protection Code.

UN advocacy with armed groups on the ground has led to the release of 653 children and an additional 130 who have been separated since last June.