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Visit of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow to the Central African Republic

‘The people of the Central African Republic are living in Fear’

BANGUI,  22 May 2008 – The threat of kidnappings, rape and killings are an everyday part of life for people living in the Central African Republic according to the UNICEF Goodwill ambassador Mia Farrow, who has just completed a week long visit to the country.

Along with the agency’s Regional Director, Dr Esther Guluma, Ms Farrow was able to speak to victims of highway bandits, military raids and forced displacement. Amongst those seen were women who had suffered multiple rapes and children who had been kidnapped for ransom and held for two years in the bush.

Both women visited the country last year and the latest mission was intended to follow up on what they describe as a ‘complex humanitarian emergency’.  UNICEF has since launched multiple programmes in the north of the country where some three hundred thousand people have fled their homes because of insecurity. On one of the few major arterial roads in the region Mia Farrow and Dr Guluma were told that 1,100 women and girls as young as four have raped on the route in the past year. Most cases are never reported.

The Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries in the world and one in five children does not reach their fifth birthday.  Government spending on health and education is less than 1.5% of GDP for each, and this is well below African averages.

Ms Farrow noted that many of the people they encountered were living without access to clean water or medicines, but were still trying to make sure that children went to ‘bush schools’ that give some 67,000 displaced children an education.  ‘The desire of parents to give their children education is inspiring,’ she said. She warned that many of the people in Central Africa Republic “are living in fear’ and that the highway bandits are becoming ‘more powerful and terrifying more people.’

Dr Guluma called on the Government to spend more on services for people but also for international donors to start paying urgent attention to the multiple needs of the country. ‘Emergencies like an earthquake are perhaps easier to understand she said, ‘but I have seldom seen people so poor and in urgent need of long term help and assistance.’ 

The team also visited the east of the country where work has started to provide for 3000 refugees from the Darfur emergency in Sudan and to provide for a local population which has suffered from long term neglect and lack of basic services.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 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. Please visit: www.unicef.org/
For further information, please contact:
Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York, + 212 326 7452, kdonovan@unicef.org





21 May 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Guy Degen reports on Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow’s visit to the Central African Republic.
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