Central African Republic: UNICEF urges support for ‘forgotten crisis’

Thousands of people fleeing the Séléka alliance have made a temporary home of the Catholic mission in Bossangoa, Central African Republic (CAR). Photo: IRIN/Hannah McNeish

22 November 2013 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is urging greater international attention to address the “forgotten crisis” in the Central African Republic (CAR) where the entire population of 4.6 million people has been affected by the ongoing crisis.

“The CAR is a forgotten crisis at the global level,” Souleymane Diabate, UNICEF Representative in the country. “While the world is preoccupied with what is happening in Syria or the Philippines, the situation is very tragic.”

Despite a “very fragile, volatile and unpredictable context”, the UN agency is holding immunization and back-to-school campaigns to decrease the maternal and infant mortality rates in the country which ranks among the lowest in social indicators.

UNICEF is also working with armed groups to release children conscripted into the army, Mr. Diabate and spokesperson Patrick McCormick said. As many as 6,000 children are estimated to be associated with the armed groups.

Plagued by decades of instability and fighting, the CAR witnessed a resumption of violence last December when the Séléka rebel coalition launched a series of attacks. A peace agreement was reached in January, but the rebels again seized the capital, Bangui, in March, forcing President François Bozizé to flee.

There is now a transitional government, headed by Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye, entrusted with restoring law and order and paving the way for democratic elections. But armed clashes in the north-east have increased since the beginning of August, and the country is facing a dire humanitarian situation affecting the entire population.

In addition, there are continued reports of gross human rights violations since the Séléka coalition seized power this March, including the deliberate killing of civilians, acts of sexual violence against women and children, and the destruction and looting of property, including hospitals, schools and churches.

In his latest report to the Security Council on the situation in the CAR, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he is increasingly concerned by the deepening crisis in the country and that there is an urgent and growing need to address the crisis before it spirals out of control.

Mr. Ban noted his concern about growing tensions between communities and that these tensions might lead to uncontrollable sectarian violence with untold consequences for the country, the sub-region and beyond.

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