Horrific cruelty and violence against children in Central African Republic must end: UNICEF
At least 133 children killed or maimed in past two months
NEW YORK/DAKAR, Senegal, 13 February 2014 – UNICEF officials in the West Africa region said today they are horrified by the cruelty and impunity with which children are being killed and mutilated in the Central African Republic.
According to the UN children’s agency, recent weeks have witnessed unprecedented levels of violence against children in sectarian and retaliatory attacks by anti-Balaka militia and ex-Séléka combatants – acts that constitute grave violations against children.
“Children are increasingly targeted because of their religion, or because of their community,” said UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Director, Manuel Fontaine. “Sectarian violence in Central African Republic has intensified, both in the capital Bangui, and in the west and centre of the country.”
At least 133 children have been killed and maimed, some of them in horrific ways, in two months of escalating ethno-religious violence.
UNICEF has verified cases of children intentionally beheaded and mutilated, and is aware of cases of children wounded in the cross-fire, who have had to have limbs amputated because insecurity blocked them from getting to the hospital in time for treatment.
In the town of Boali, northwest of the capital, one in four casualties has been among children, with 22 killed and 42 injured since early December.
While violence has been committed by all groups, the most recent targeting of Muslim populations has resulted in the evacuation of whole communities and a significant increase in the number of unaccompanied children, separated from their families in the upheaval. These children are particularly at risk.
UNICEF is appealing to government, community, religious and civil society leaders invested with the trust of their communities to help end this violence and to work together towards reconciliation.
“There is no future for a country where adults can viciously target innocent children with impunity”, Fontaine added. “All children in the Central African Republic must be protected.”
UNICEF said that in addition, grave violations against children must be investigated, prosecuted and punished.
- Armed groups and militia in the country must be disarmed immediately.
- Impartial humanitarian assistance must be able to reach children most at risk.
- Security must be restored by national forces, African Union forces and French troops so families can return to their homes.
- Reconciliation must be nurtured. The transitional government, civil society, religious and youth organisations need to work together to tip the balance from fear towards reconciliation.
“Attacks against children must be denounced systematically by civil society, the transitional government, international organizations, and the media,” Fontaine concluded. “Impunity must end.”
Note to editors
With now more than 150 staff on the ground, UNICEF has considerably and rapidly scaled up its humanitarian presence/operations in CAR to be able to adequately respond to the growing magnitude and severity of this crisis. UNICEF is strengthening its field presence by adding staff in established field offices in Bossangoa, Bambari and Kaga Bandoro as well as coordinating outreach strategies in the west and centre of the country.
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