UNICEF: 6,000 child soldiers fighting in Central Africa Republic

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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)

Armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) have recruited nearly 6,000 children into their ranks, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Nearly half of the children have been recruited this year following the ouster of the government in March by rebel groups.

UNICEF says the security situation in CAR remains volatile and unpredictable, with armed groups roaming the countryside and committing acts of violence with impunity.

Civilians caught up in the fighting have established self-defense militia groups and clashes between Christian and Muslim communities were taking place on a daily basis.

UNICEF's country director in CAR Souleymane Diabate says despite the worsening security situation, UNICEF remains on the ground delivering lifesaving humanitarian assistance.

"The crisis is very complex. We have also what we call self-defence groups. The ex-Seleka were targeting the population and what we have seen now is the population has started to organise themselves and have these self-defence groups and among these groups we have lots of children also. CAR is the most difficult country to work with. But we are there to deliver. We are there to save lives. We have been implementing the immunization campaign. We have been organising in a very complex and difficult circumstances back to school campaigns so the children can continue going to school. We have also been working with the armed groups-the ex-Seleka for the release of children associated with armed groups."

The United Nations estimates that nearly half of Central African Republic's population of 4 million is in need of humanitarian aid.

Close to 400,000 people have been internally displaced by the ongoing political crisis and violence.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

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