Children were deliberately targeted in the latest flare of violence in Central African Republic that killed three dozen people and wounded more than a hundred in the capital Bangui last Saturday.
Preliminary reports from local organisations indicate that three boys aged between 16 and 17 were brutally killed, including one who was decapitated, while at least 2 boys and 2 girls ranging from 7 to 17 years were wounded by gunshots or grenade fragments in brutal clash between armed groups.
“Nothing can justify the deliberate targeting of children,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s West and Central Africa Regional Director. “These appalling crimes against boys and girls who are caught between warring factions must stop, and those carrying them must be held responsible.”
UNICEF calls on all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international law, and to stop targeting civilians and critical infrastructure like schools and health facilities.
The conflict in the Central African Republic has torn apart communities across the country, leaving in its wake destruction and a collapse of basic services. According to UNICEF, an average of at least one child was killed or maimed every day in 2014 and up to 10,000 children were recruited by armed groups. Only in the first half of 2015, there have been reports of 26 children killed and 110 maimed in clashes.
This latest escalation in violence is likely to further deteriorate conditions for children in the country, many of whom already are already suffering from disrupted health services, critical levels of child malnutrition, closed schools and forced recruitment by armed groups.
UNICEF is working with local partners to protect children from violence by providing safe spaces for learning and psychological support for those most affected, and by negotiating with armed groups to secure the release of children and assisting them to reintegrate within their communities when possible.
Despite the tremendous needs, UNICEF’s response remains grossly underfunded. Less than half of UNICEF’s funding appeal of US $73.9 million has been met so far. The crisis in the Central Africa Republic is the most under-funded of the different emergencies UNICEF is currently responding to around the world.