|© UNICEF CAR/2008/ Holtz|
|UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow with a mother and her child living in a site for displaced people in Kabo, north of Central African Republic. The mother fled her village with her husband after she was kidnapped and raped.|
BANGUI, Central African Republic, 23 May 2008 – UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow has wrapped up a week-long journey to the Central African Republic by calling for more international support for the tiny, impoverished nation.
Years of violence between government soldiers and rebels have forced tens of thousands from their homes and destroyed hundreds of villages. The threat of kidnappings, rape and killings are a part of everyday part of life.
During her visit, Ms. Farrow spoke to victims of highway bandits, military raids and forced displacement. She heard from women who had suffered multiple rapes and children who had been kidnapped for ransom and held for years.
‘Angry and upset’
"It makes me feel angry and upset," Ms Farrow said. "In a world where we have so much that we see such good people living under such circumstances. And these are man-made circumstances. This is a land that has so many natural resources yet nothing is coming to the people except that which the humanitarian agencies are bringing."
Although dialogue for peace with the Government is beginning to take shape, rebel groups are still active in the country's north. Lawlessness in rebel-controlled zones has lead to armed bandits attacking vulnerable communities and kidnapping for ransom.
|© UNICEF CAR/2008/ Holtz|
|Ms. Farrow carries a three-month-old baby to be vaccinated against the polio virus. Ms. Farrow, herself a polio victim, launched the UNICEF-supported vaccination campaign along with First Lady Monique Bozize during her recent visit to the country.|
On one of the few major arterial roads in the region, Ms. Farrow and UNICEF Regional Director Dr. Esther Guluma were told that 1,100 women, and girls as young as four have been raped on the route in the past year. Most cases are never reported.
"I just spoke to a woman whose five-year-old son was carrying a little baby and when these bandits attacked the village. The five-year-old was shot and killed and this woman was holding the baby who survived. The bullet had torn through the baby's leg," Ms. Farrow said.
Urgent help needed
Dr. Guluma called on the Government to spend more on services and for international donors to start paying urgent attention to the country’s many needs.
UNICEF has already launched programmes in the north, where some 300,000 people have fled their homes because of insecurity.
"Emergencies like an earthquake are perhaps easier to understand," said Dr. Guluma. "But I have seldom seen people so poor and in urgent need of long term help and assistance."