BANGUI/DAKAR/GENEVA, 17 April 2013 – In the face of intensifying violence in the Central African Republic, including on a playing field and at 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 places 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 in the capital city of Bangui has claimed the lives of at least three children and left 25 injured, with four 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 medicine 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 CAR 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.
Note to 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 12 years 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, 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. Seven 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.
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
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