NEW YORK (August 27, 2012) — At the end of his five-day mission to the Central African Republic (CAR), activist and author Ishmael Beah said there were still armed groups using children as combatants and in other roles.
Following 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 forcibly recruited as a child by armed forces in Sierra Leone, saw the 10 children received at a center managed by UNICEF partner, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC). The center supports the rehabilitation of children and their transition back to their community, including programs providing basic education, sports, cultural activities and skills-building for 45 children, ages 10 to18. Among the children were three girls.
The purpose of the center is to help children overcome the effects of exposure to various forms of violence, abuse and exploitation, which they may have experienced over a prolonged period of time.
At the center, 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.
After their release, children associated with armed groups require continued support and follow-up for several 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 populated areas present an ongoing threat, including re-recruitment of children previously associated with one or more groups. Central African children face serious human rights abuses and violations. CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 179 out of 187 on the United Nations 2011 Human Development Index.
"With commitments by armed groups in the Central African Republic in place, funds are urgently required so we can act quickly to release all children and ensure programs are in place for their successful rehabilitation and reintegration." said Beah.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children's lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood.
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