Children bear brunt of crisis in Central African Republic: UNICEF

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Thousands of people have been forced from their homes by fresh fighting in the capital, adding to the previous CAR total or some 206,000 IDPs (© UNHCR/D.Mbaiorem)

Nearly 3,500 children have been recruited into various armed groups in the Central African Republic, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The agency says both government forces and rebel groups have been actively recruiting both boys and girls as child soldiers since the onset of the current political crisis in December 2012.

It points out that the use of child soldiers is a war crime adding that it is actively engaged with the various military and armed groups to gain access to military camps and release the children.

UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado says children are particularly hard hit by the on-going crisis in the Central African Republic and many are unable to access health care services while the threat of early marriage for the girl child is on the increase.

"Measles outbreak are reported almost everywhere in the country mostly due to the breakdown in the routine immunization services. At least 60 per cent of schools are still closed because of the violence and the absence of teachers. One in five water points assessed in the south of the country, which was an area not particularly hard hit by the fighting, is broken and there is no capacity to repair them. Forced marriages for young girls is reportedly on the rise and more and more children are showing symptoms of psychosocial distress. One indicator of the chaos and violence surrounding children is the uptake in the number of children being recruited into the fighting. Before the crisis broke out in December 2012, UNICEF estimated that there were around 2,000 children associated with armed groups. Recruitment of children for use by armed groups has taken place on both sides since then and partners estimate there are 3,500 children now among the ranks of the armed actors."

UNICEF is to undertake a major measles vaccination campaign in the Central African Republic starting September 30 targeted at over 750,000 children who are at risk of contracting the disease.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration: 1’55″

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