Thousands of children recruited as soldiers and sex slaves by armed groups in the Central African Republic have opportunities to escape but have nowhere to go.
World Vision child protection manager Edouard Ndong, speaking from the capital Bangui, says children report 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.
In addition to taking part in actual fighting and being used for sex, children are also employed by militias as porters, spies and cooks.
In Boali, 100 kilometres northwest of Bangui, almost 1,000 children are part of one local militia; their numbers include more than 150 girls aged between 12 and 18 years old.
Ndong says the militia in Boali is willing to release children if there are programmes to take care of them, but humanitarian organizations are struggling to find funding to establish such programmes. Moreover, they find it difficult to operate in many parts of the country where fighting continues to rage.
Children at the IDP camp of Notre Dame Fatima. Photo by Bruno Col
World Vision is urgently seeking funding to establish child protection programmes in Boali, plus several other towns in the Ombella-M’Poko prefecture in the western part of the Central African Republic.
Proposed activities include the establishment of Child Friendly Spaces—safe havens for children that will provide emotional support to help children recover from violence and sexual abuse. In addition, the organization plans to establish local child protection committees, whereby community leaders and ordinary individuals will be trained to take care of abused children and take action to prevent further harm.
Ndong says the abuse of children in the current environment in the country is rampant. One doctor in Boali reported that local health centres were treating as many as four cases of raped children every month.
As part of its relief efforts World Vision, in partnership with the World Food Programme, will begin distribution of food to schools to feed 54,000 schoolchildren in the coming weeks. Distribution will take place in Bangui and in Bimbo, which is 25 kilometres southwest of Bangui.
The Central African Republic descended into an orgy of ethnic and sectarian violence following the ousting of President François Bozizé in March last year.
For more information and interviews contact
Edwin Asante, World Vision Acting Response Director for CAR, Ph: +236 75 42 72 03; Skype: edwin_asante
Edouard Ndong, Child Protection Manager for CAR, Ph: +236 75 34 37 23; Skype: maissawaly.dione