THE number of children recruited into armed groups in the Central African Republic has increased by 50% this year.
As many as 15 000 boys and girls are now involved in combat between rival Christian extremists and Muslim radicals.
Anti-Balaka and Seleka sects are using children as young as eight years old as combatants, guards, human shields, porters, messengers, spies, cooks and for sexual purposes.
The United Nations Children’s Fund said this year had been difficult for children and sadly, the situation was not expected to improve in the coming months.
“I am very concerned about the lasting impact this crisis is having on children,” said Christine Muhigana, Unicef’s representative in the country.
“We have a whole generation at risk of growing up traumatised, without proper education, without healthcare and constantly exposed to the most horrific violence.”
Half of the five million population in the country is in need of humanitarian support.
This includes 1,3 million children.
Currently, 20% of the schools are closed because of insecurity. Immunisation campaigns have been disrupted in several regions and basic healthcare has collapsed. In 2018, humanitarian needs are projected to grow. “We are going to need all the support we can get if we do not want the children of CAR to be left to a terrible fate,” Muhigana said. – CAJ NEWS