N’DELE, Central African Republic, 24 August 2012 – At the end of his five-day mission to the Central African Republic, UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War Ishmael Beah said it was shocking to see that armed groups were still using children as combatants and in other roles.
After a visit to conflict-affected towns in the northeastern region bordering Chad, Beah witnessed the release of 10 children from the armed group Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace.
The release took place at the military camp in Akroussoulback, where Beah said: “These children have been through so much, but their release marks just the beginning. Many of the children have little to return to and limited opportunities. Long separated from their families or orphaned by conflict, they urgently require special care over the long-term. More funds are needed.”
Beah, himself a former child associated with armed forces from Sierra Leone, saw the 10 children received at a centre managed by UNICEF partner, the Danish Refugee Council. The centre runs programmes providing basic education, sports, cultural activities and vocational skills for 45 children, aged 10 to 18 years. Among the children were three girls.
The purpose of the centre is to help children overcome the effects of exposure to various forms of violence, abuse and exploitation, which may have happened over a prolonged period of time.
At the centre, Beah led discussions on war, loss, and recovery. “When you are conditioned to function in war, it takes time to know that something else is possible. I went through that myself,” he told the children.
Beyond the release, children associated with armed groups require continued support for at least two to three years to ensure successful reintegration into families and communities.
Despite the validation of national policies on child protection, the presence of armed groups in towns and other populous areas make the country’s children particularly vulnerable to re-recruitment into the numerous armed groups active throughout the country.
“With commitments by armed groups in the Central African Republic in place, funds are urgently required to ensure we can act quickly to release children and ensure programmes are in place for their successful rehabilitation and reintegration.” said Beah, a best-selling author and human rights spokesperson.
Despite the validation of national policies on child protection, Central African children face serious human rights abuses and violations. CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world ranking 179 of 187 countries on the United Nations 2011 Human Development Index.
About the UN Task Force on Children Associated with Armed Groups or Forces
In conflict-affected countries, the UN Task Force collects information on the recruitment or use of children; abduction, killing, maiming, rape or other sexual violence; attacks on schools and hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access. The Task Force also develops action plans with government forces and rebel groups to end and prevent these violations. The Task Force works with the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
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
For more information, and footage please contact:
Linda Tom, UNICEF Central African Republic
Mobile + 236 7055 0210
Shantha Bloemen, Africa Services Unit, UNICEF Johannesburg
Tel +27 79 495 5938