NEW YORK (May 29, 2013) – Forty-one children were released on May 27 and 28 in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), following a series of meetings between UNICEF and the President of the Central African Republic Michel Djotodia. The children, of whom seven are girls, are between the ages of 14 and 17.
“The release of these children is the just the first step. We are committed to ensuring that every child in armed groups in CAR is released and reintegrated back into society, and I have been assured that we can expect more children will be released in the coming days and weeks,” said UNICEF CAR Representative Souleymane Diabate.
“UNICEF is working with the government of CAR to immediately verify, release, reunify and reintegrate children who had been recruited by the Seleka forces and armed groups associated with them. We are very encouraged by the collaboration of the Government, which has expressed its commitment to take urgent action,” he added.
Recent fighting in CAR led to a sharp increase in the recruitment of children across the country. Before the crisis, UNICEF estimated there were more than 2,000 children associated with armed groups and forces. Violence and insecurity make children more vulnerable to recruitment, particularly if they are separated from their families, displaced from their homes or have limited access to education, clean water, and other basic services.
The 41 children are now at a UNICEF-supported Transit and Orientation Center that provides education, sports, vocational skills and psychosocial support while the children’s families are traced. As of Monday, there were 15 children at the center in the final process of being reunified with their families in the north of the country.
In 2012 UNICEF and partners released and reintegrated 345 children associated with armed groups in CAR. Since 2007, more than 1,000 girls and boys in the country have been released from armed groups with UNICEF’s support.
Due to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in CAR, needs have significantly increased. Additional funding is urgently needed to help UNICEF respond to the immediate needs of children affected by the conflict over the coming months.
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. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.