BANGUI, Central African Republic/DAKAR, 29 March 2013 – Following looting and insecurity in the conflict-hit Central African Republic, 2 million children remain without access to basic social services and are exposed to violence. Even more children will be deprived if the situation in the country does not stabilize rapidly.
One week after the takeover of the country by the Seleka coalition, UNICEF is warning that security conditions are preventing critical humanitarian aid from reaching children. The result could be deadly for children, many of whom are already in a fragile condition.
“Children in the Central African Republic were some of the most vulnerable in Africa even before the recent upsurge in fighting,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF's Regional Director. “It is imperative to have full and secure access to communities affected by the conflict. With every lost day, every thwarted delivery and every stolen supply, more children may die.”
Since the recent takeover of Bangui and widespread looting, UNICEF estimates that at least 4.1 million people, almost half of whom are children, are now directly affected by the crisis and since the end of December, 1.2 million people have been cut off from essential services.
This week, ten metric tonnes of emergency supplies were stolen from UNICEF's main warehouse that were intended for 30,000 of the most vulnerable people, specifically children and women, in the coming days and weeks. The supplies included water kits, blankets, mosquito nets, plastic sheeting, and essential medicines and nutrition items.
“The needs and rights of children must be the priority for the new government,” said Souleymane Diabate, UNICEF Central African Republic representative. “Being able to operate in an environment that is secure, and where we have access to all the population is crucial to UNICEF and other humanitarian actors.”
“For every day we cannot deliver aid where it’s needed, there is an increased risk of disease and epidemics. How will the Central African Republic ever move forward if essential humanitarian supplies are stolen from the people who need them the most?”
UNICEF calls on all parties to the conflict to immediately stop the looting of humanitarian supplies, to ensure free and secure access of humanitarian actors to those in need, and to ensure that all involved respect humanitarian principles, human rights and the rule of law.
“The time has come for the Seleka coalition which took power last weekend to really demonstrate how committed it is to humanitarian principles and human rights for all Central Africans,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org