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Between 3,500 and 6,000 children have been recruited into armed groups in the Central African Republic, the U.N. says.
Thousands of children recruited as soldiers and sex slaves by armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) have nowhere to go to escape violence, a World Vision child protection manager says.
The CAR descended into the chaos of ethnic and sectarian violence following the ousting of President François Bozizé in March last year. Thousands have been killed and nearly 1 million people — almost one-quarter of the population — have fled their homes due to widespread fighting.
Children are reporting that they are involved in militias because they are not going to school, don’t have anything to eat, or have no family to take care of them, says Edouard Ndong, child protection manager for World Vision.
The U.N. children’s agency estimates that 3,500 to 6,000 children have been recruited into armed groups in the CAR. In addition to fighting and being used for sex, children serve as porters and spies.
In Boali, northwest of the embattled capital of Bangui, almost 1,000 children are part of one local militia; their numbers include more than 150 girls between 12 and 18 years old, officials report.
Child sexual abuse is reported to be rampant, says Ndong, who heard a doctor from Boali say health centers there were treating four cases of child rape a month.
“The militia in Boali is willing to release children if there are programs to take care of them, but humanitarian organizations [including World Vision] are struggling to find funding to establish such programs,” says Ndong, who was interviewed in Bangui.
They also find it difficult to operate in many parts of the country where fighting continues, he adds. Ndong is among a group of child protection experts who are involved in meetings to address the crisis.
World Vision is urgently seeking funding to establish child protection programs in Boali, plus several other towns in the Ombella-M’Poko prefecture in the western part of the CAR. Proposed activities include the establishment of Child-Friendly Spaces — safe havens for children that will provide emotional support to help them recover from psychological stress.
The organization also plans to establish local child protection committees to train community leaders and volunteers to care for abused children and prevent further harm.
As part of its relief efforts, World Vision, in partnership with the World Food Program, will begin distribution of food to schools to feed 54,000 schoolchildren in the coming weeks. Distributions will take place in Bangui and in Bimbo, which is 16 miles southwest of Bangui.
Learn some fast facts about the conflict in the CAR at World Vision magazine.
Pray for peace in the CAR and for children and families affected by the conflict. Take a look at our prayer guide at World Vision magazine for other suggested prayer points.
Make a donation to World Vision’s Central African Republic Relief Fund. Your gift will help us build programs to help protect children and provide clean water and vital relief supplies in the Central African Republic today.
Donate to help provide Child-Friendly Spaces in disaster- or conflict-affected areas to provide a safe environment for children to learn, play, and recover emotionally from traumatic events. Your gift of $100 will provide a child with a safe place to play for three months.