Protecting Children in the Central African Republic
Helping children affected by violence rebuild a better life
Bangui, 29 November 2021. As the world commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Graça Machel Report, "The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children", UNICEF in West and Central Africa is launching an advocacy note, "Build Back Better Lives", to shed light on this issue.
This publication has shown that the West and Central Africa region is one of the most affected by the serious violations committed against children in armed conflict, the region regularly registering some of the highest numbers of serious child abuse committed by the UN in recent years, including the highest number of recruitment and the second in terms of abductions.
In the Central African Republic, the protection and well-being of children has seriously deteriorated since the end of 2020, with a peak for most of the six serious violations: i) murder and mutilation of children, ii) recruitment and use of children, (iii) child abduction, (iv) rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, (v) attacks on schools and hospitals, and (vi) denial of humanitarian access.
The vulnerability of children to serious violations has been greatly exacerbated by intensified hostilities across the country, including attacks by armed groups and counter-military operations.offensive actions by the government and allied forces that continue to this day.
The report notes that 1,280 children suffered one or more serious violations between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2021, with girls accounting for more than 40% of all victims. The primary offence was the recruitment and use of children, with 845 boys and girls affected. This is followed by incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence, with alarming verified figures, even if the violation is largely under-reported for fear of reprisals, stigma, lack of accountability and support for victims and survivors. At least 249 girls have been victims of rape or other forms of sexual violence, but the actual scope of the violation is probably worse.
There has also been an increase in the use of schools and hospitals by armed groups that has an impact on children’s access to basic services. For example, from January 2019 to June 2021, the United Nations documented a total of 92 schools, either attacked or used by armed groups. Almost all of these incidents were recorded in December 2020 and the first quarter of 2021.
With the intensification of armed conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the country in 2020, 944,000 children need protection according to the child protection sub-cluster, an increase of 12% compared to 2021 in CAR.
Progress for children in the face of challenges
UNICEF commends the Central African Government for its efforts to strengthen the national legal framework through the enactment of the Child Protection Code in June 2020 benefiting children and welcomes the provisions criminalizing the six serious violations of children’s rights in armed conflict.
“The Child Protection Code is a key document that has been implemented to ensure effective protection of children, including against serious violations of their rights. Through close collaboration with government, local authorities and our partners, UNICEF has been able to strengthen the monitoring and reporting mechanism, promote the release and reintegration of children from armed forces and armed groups and provide medical and psychosocial care to children affected by conflict.” said Fran Equiza, UNICEF Representative in the Central African Republic.
Advocacy with armed groups by the United Nations on the ground led to the separation of 653 children, all benefiting from reintegration support. This positive result continued beyond the end of the reporting period and more than 130 children separated since June 2021. Hence the importance of full support for the reintegration of all released children, including medical screening, research and family reunification, psychosocial support and educational or vocational training
“Mental health and psychosocial support for children and adolescents are essential and central to UNICEF’s humanitarian response. When children receive the necessary care and psychosocial support, access to school and access to livelihoods, they are able to treat their experiences and rebuild their lives,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
UNICEF also called on all partners, including relevant governments and donors, to develop a national strategy to prevent serious violations against children, ensure that serious violations are reported and verified, and to intensify their efforts to secure financial resources to support and protect children in Central Africa.
UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in West and Central Africa, visit https://www.unicef.org/wca.