Here at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, we are in routine contact with UNICEF colleagues at HQ and in the field. We often have the opportunity to speak with our UNICEF field colleagues as a group to learn about the issues and challenges UNICEF staff face in country, and to hear about the critical work they are carrying out for children on the ground.
This morning we had a call scheduled with our UNICEF colleagues in Bangui, Central African Republic to learn about the urgent needs of children and what UNICEF is doing to protect them from violence, and ensure continued access to critical health services, food, water & sanitation, and education.
We were alerted shortly before our scheduled call with the country office that there was a security incident in Bangui and that staff would not be able to conduct the briefing as planned.
“The next few hours were unsettling as we waited to hear that the staff were all safe."
The next few hours were unsettling as we waited to hear that the staff were all safe. When they circled back with us, we learned that there was a targeted killing in Bangui which led to armed retaliation and renewed violence in the city. It turns out that a Muslim former minister was attacked and killed, leading to new violent attacks between anti-Balaka and Seleka groups.
Our colleagues reported they could hear gunfire and chaos outside. They quickly regrouped to respond to the inevitable displacement of vulnerable children and families. They were also quickly working to ensure that colleagues in the field could safely return home before curfew.
Violent conflict and displacement of children and families in CAR is not new; some 922,000 people are displaced across the country, with 496,731 internally displaced people in Bangui alone. More than 2 million children are affected by the conflict and need urgent assistance.
The importance of the work UNICEF and its humanitarian partners are carrying out in CAR and the myriad other countries affected by protracted conflicts around the world cannot be understated.
We’re relieved that our colleagues in CAR are safe and that they continue to carry out their work, especially amid such horrible conditions. Greater attention and efforts are urgently needed to address the emergency in CAR to prevent further violence and protect children now.
A woman and two children taking shelter at the temporary camp for internally displaced persons near the airport in the Central African Republic capital of Bangui. ©REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu