Starving, hiding in the bush or with armed groups, two in three children in the Central African Republic need aid, the United Nations said on Friday, as surging violence, attacks on humanitarians and funding shortages raise the spectre of famine.
Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for aid workers, with attacks more than quadrupling since 2017 to almost 300 up to mid-September, the U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF) said.
“Conditions for children are desperate,” it said, with 1.5 million children in need of aid, up from 1.2 million in 2016.
And one in four are either a displaced or a refugee, but practically all children in this country need some form of assistance
“The skeletal bodies of children fortunate enough to make it to the nutrition ward at CAR’s only pediatric hospital virtually scream ‘famine’.”
“The Central African Republic is quite possibly the most neglected crisis in the world. It is happening in the poorest, least developed country and humanitarian workers are in one of the most dangerous places. Children’s conditions are desperate,” said Christine Muhigana, UNICEF’s Representative in the Central African Republic.
CAR has been in chaos since 2013, when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted the president, provoking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.
About a dozen armed groups – fighting over cattle routes and lands rich in diamonds, gold and uranium – often target schools, clinics and sites for displaced people, UNICEF said.
Practically every child needs protection from armed groups who have expanded their control to four-fifths of the country, it said.
“And one in four are either a displaced or a refugee, but practically all children in this country need some form of assistance,” said Muhiga.
Fighting has uprooted more than 1 million people, with 2.9 million of the 4.6 million population in need of aid, with a risk of famine in a few years if people cannot return to their fields, the U.N. said earlier this month.
Every fourth child has fled their home and thousands are soldiers or sex slaves in armed groups, UNICEF said.
UNICEF said only 44 per cent of its $57 million appeal for CAR for 2018 had been met as of the end of October.