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Central African Republic

Mia Farrow talks about the tremendous loss suffered by children and women displaced in the Central African Republic

Watch: UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow talks about her recent visit to the Central African Republic, reflecting on the “background of violence, of displacement, and of suffering and deprivation”.  Download this video


© UNICEF/2014-0865/Bindra
On 2 July, Ms. Farrow greets internally displaced mothers and their children in the St. Michel displacement site near the southern town of Boda in Lobaye Prefecture.

By Tanya Bindra

BODA, Central African Republic, 7 July 2014 – “There’s not only the loss of possessions, a home or the lives of family members…there’s the trauma of insecurity, the sense that they don’t have any safety. They wonder: Will we wake up in the morning?” says Mia Farrow. The UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador has just visited the Central African Republic for the fourth time.

Children in grave danger

An estimated 535,000 people are displaced within the Central African Republic because of ongoing violence, with 110,000 displaced in the capital, Bangui, alone. More than 387,500 people have fled to neighbouring countries, mainly to Cameroon, Chad, the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Children in particular are bearing the brunt of the crisis. Some 2.3 million children have been affected. Insecurity and lawlessness throughout the country have led to children being displaced, separated, maimed, abducted, recruited into armed groups, killed and raped.

Ongoing conflict has worsened an already dire humanitarian and security crisis. As the violence has continued, the country has experienced a deterioration of basic health and social services. Schooling has been disrupted. Children have become more vulnerable to disease and malnutrition.

Town divided

Ms. Farrow met with children and women in the southern town of Boda. In Boda, the Muslim population shelters in an enclave designated by red tape. The area is patrolled by international peacekeeping soldiers.

Demolished shops and houses of Muslims and non-Muslims alike line the now nearly empty streets of the small town, evidence of the killing and looting that took place before the red line was established.

At night, you can sometimes hear the careful footsteps of women crossing the line to be with their husbands and boyfriends confined to the Muslim enclave, a reminder of how close relations between the communities used to be.

“She had nothing”

Muslim health workers no longer work at the main hospital for fear of crossing the red line during the day. They volunteer at the UNICEF-supported health clinic built to serve the enclave.

Ms. Farrow met with a mother at the clinic. The woman said her father and husband had fled during the fighting and left her to care for her four children, one of whom was severely malnourished.

“She said she had nothing,” Ms. Farrow says. “She hadn’t only lost her clothes, her house, her cooking pots and everything else that she had assembled to conduct her life… She said she had nothing left, literally.

“You’re looking into the eyes of another human being, and you know she’s not alone. She was speaking for the thousands of people [who] have lost everything in this crisis. You just think, what would that be like, if I lost literally everything?”

Urgent need for support

UNICEF has appealed for US$81 million to meet the urgent needs of the mothers and children of the Central African Republic, in support of hygiene, health, education and child protection projects.

Ms. Farrow says she believes in supporting frontline organizations that have the infrastructure to save lives and have already been doing so.

“Not even half of the amount of money that UNICEF has asked for has come through,” she says. “Of course, there are other conflicts elsewhere, but this country is so neglected and so abandoned. Surely its children hold equal value to those in other parts of the world, as well.”

UNICEF’s appeal for the children of the Central African Republic






UNICEF Photography: Protecting children is paramount


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