UNICEF: More than 1.5 million children in CAR need emergency aid

UN agency warns 43,000 children under the age of five ‘face an extremely high risk of death’ as crisis worsens.

Children at a camp in the Central African Republic
UNICEF said around 1.5 million children were in need of humanitarian assistance [File: Siegfried Modola/Reuters]

Around two-thirds of all children in the Central African Republic (CAR) need emergency aid, UNICEF has said, as it sounded alarm bells over the “neglected” crisis ravaging the country.

In a report published on Friday, UNICEF said around 1.5 million children were in need of humanitarian assistance, with at least 43,000 children under the age of five “projected to face an extremely high risk of death due to severe acute malnutrition next year”.

“CAR has the world’s second-highest newborn death rate and maternal mortality ratio, fewer than three out of five children make it through primary school, and almost half the population has no access to clean water,” the report said.

UNICEF’s top representative in the country, Christine Muhigana, said the plight of children “desperately needed the world’s attention.”

“Children in CAR are constantly facing violence, fear, they’re recruited into armed groups, they’re living under unimaginable poverty and facing malnutrition,” she told Al Jazeera.

‘Conditions are becoming desperate’

One of the world’s poorest nations despite a rich supply of diamonds and uranium, the CAR has struggled to recover from a 2013 civil war that erupted when Muslim Seleka rebels toppled President Francois Bozize’s government.

In response, Christians, who account for about 80 percent of the population, organised vigilante units dubbed “Anti-balaka”.

Thousands have been killed while a quarter of the population has fled their homes.

Earlier this month, the UN’s World Food Programme warned that if nothing was done to reverse the humanitarian situation, a famine would hit.

It said if people continued to flee their homes and abandon their fields, the country of 4.5 million people would face spiralling food insecurity.

“The conditions are becoming desperate,” Muhigana told Al Jazeera.

“Recently in Alindao [a town 200km east of the capital Bangui] what started as an attack between two armed groups ended up as a barbaric attack on the civilian population who were at a displaced camp.

“About 20 children died, 80 children were made orphans, many fled to the bush and this constant volatile situation is putting a great toll on children in the country.”

Source: Al Jazeera