UNICEF Warns of Crisis of Child Soldiers in Central African Republic

Written by on December 2, 2013 in Africa, Health, Non-Profit - No comments

child-soldiers-in-the-drcWhen we think of children within our society we associate them at school learning, laughing and hanging out with their friends. Yet according to the United Nations, the number of child soldiers in the Central African Republic has more than doubled to as many as 6,000 in recent months as self-defence militia have sprung up to counter waves of attacks by former rebels. Now world powers, led by France, are rushing to contain a crisis that Paris and U.N. officials have warned could lead to genocide in this region, which slipped into chaos after rebels ousted the president in March. Some 400,000 people have fled their homes since the uprising and the reprisal killings that followed.

UNICEF, the U.N.’s children’s agency, has warned of a complex crisis that has seen local communities set up self-defence groups to halt abuses by the northern, mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance that swept to power. This has led to an increase in the number of children involved. UNICEF believes that boys and girls younger than 15 are working as child soldiers.

Central African Republic is rich in gold, diamonds and uranium, but decades of instability and the spill over from conflicts in its larger neighbours have kept it mired in crises. This area is a forgotten crisis at global level and the situation is very tragic. However, in spite of the area’s fragile state, UNICEF is holding immunisation and back-to-school campaigns to increase the maternal and infant mortality rates in the country which ranks among the lowest in social indicators. This agency is also working with armed groups to release children conscripted into the army.

It’s bad enough when a child’s life is torn apart by wars they didn’t start, yet when they’re forced into fighting in the conflict themselves, it causes psychological and physical damage that can often never be repaired. Every child has the right to go to school and to live free from violence. Using them as soldiers is one of the most dreadful breaches of those rights and it is just simply very wrong. There are an estimated 250,000 child soldiers in the world today; it is estimated that 40 per cent of all child soldiers are girls. As part of their recruitment, children are sometimes forced to kill or maim a family member, which breaks the bond with their community and making it difficult for them to return home.

In his latest report to the Security Council on the situation in the Central African Republic, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he is increasingly concerned by the deepening crisis in the country and that there is an urgent and growing need to address the crisis before it spirals out of control. There is growing international unease about tensions between communities and that these pressures might lead to uncontrollable sectarian violence with untold consequences for the country, the sub-region and beyond.

Photo Credit: Rising Continent

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