UN: 1.5 million children in CAR need aid, protection

By Hassan Isilow

JOHANNESBURG (AA) – At least 1.5 million children in the war-torn Central African Republic (CAR) require urgent aid and protection, the United Nations said on Friday.

In a new study, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said child malnutrition has become a major problem in the country, where thousands have fled their homes due to the ongoing conflict.

“Over 43,000 children below five years old are projected to face an extremely elevated risk of death due to severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 2019,” the UN body said in a new report.

The report paints a grim picture of children’s lives in one of the world’s least developed and poorest nations that has witnessed armed conflicts for many years.

CAR suffers an “extremely alarming” level of hunger, according to the 2018 Global Hunger Index.

UNICEF said thousands of children, mostly boys, are believed to be in armed groups.

“Thousands more, mostly girls, are sexually exploited and abused. Insecurity and lack of humanitarian access make the exact numbers difficult to assess,” the report said, adding these children “desperately need a prospect of a decent life.”

The agency said despite the escalating crisis in CAR, international attention and support was critically low and must be stepped up to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.

UNICEF concluded in its report that all the children of CAR need security because the places they go to for protection and support — including schools, hospitals and places of worship — are increasingly under attack by the armed groups.