NEW YORK (August 18, 2014) – One hundred and three children, ages 8 to 17, were released over the past week from armed groups in the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), Bangui, following negotiations with armed group leaders.
The 103 children, 13 of whom are girls, were associated with the anti-Balaka armed groups operating mainly in Bangui and in the western part of CAR, who took up arms in retaliation for attacks from ex-Seleka forces in the last year and a half of violence.
“As the conflict continues, the number of children being used in armed groups has increased dramatically,” said Souleymane Diabaté, UNICEF Representative in Central African Republic. “Recruitment of children into conflict is a grave violation of child rights, and these children have witnessed a level of violence that no child should ever have to experience.”
Eleven of the 103 children are unaccompanied and remain separated from their families. After a thorough verification process by child protection specialists, these particularly vulnerable children are being sheltered at a UNICEF-supported center in the capital. The center, run by the Italian NGO COOPI, provides immediate care and psychosocial support to the children, preparing them to be reintegrated back into their communities, while tracing family members so they can be reunified with parents or close relatives.
Children who are already reunited with their families or relatives will benefit from a drop-in center in their neighborhood, also run by COOPI, with support from UNICEF. Children visiting this center will have access to recreational activities, psychosocial support and warm meals. UNICEF is also working to ensure children are enrolled in school once they return to their communities.
“Our strategy is to set up services where the children and their families live, so that they can begin the process of recovery right away and have options outside of the armed group,” added Diabaté.
UNICEF works with all parties to the conflict to verify, release, and reunify children with their families. Since January 2014, UNICEF and partners have secured the release of 1,388 children—more than four times the total number of children released in 2013—associated with armed forces and groups in CAR, 285 of whom are girls.
Despite this positive development, UNICEF remains concerned about the thousands of children who remain associated with armed groups in the Central African Republic. The number could be as high as 10,000, according to latest estimates.
This year UNICEF has appealed for $81 million to fund its response to the ongoing humanitarian emergency in CAR. Halfway through the year, only 41 percent has been received.
How to help: For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution to UNICEF’s relief efforts, please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:
Toll free: 1-800-FOR-KIDS
Mail: 125 Maiden Lane, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10038
As with any emergency, in the event that donations exceed anticipated needs, the U.S. Fund will redirect any excess funds to children in greatest need.
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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.
For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, firstname.lastname@example.org