Decades of bloody civil-war has left the Central African Republic (CAR) as one of the poorest countries in the world. The population has suffered for many years and especially the children are vulnerable. The Danish Refugee Council therefore invests the funds from a national Danish collection ‘Danmarksindsamlingen’ in assisting child-refugees in CAR – one of the world’s forgotten conflict zones.
“The village was attacked at four in the morning. Rebels surrounded us and set fire to our houses. People were fleeing and the rebels opened fire. Five people were killed – my grandmother was one of them,” says 14-year old Abdel as he shares his personal story he is unable to forget.
“I often think about that night. It is all still inside my head and I have not been able to forget,” says Abdel, who fled his village with his family after the attack. The family went hiding in the bush and eventually moved on to the nearest big city Ndélé. The family are now internally displaced living far away from their land, crops and home.
In conflict affected areas across CAR local schools have been burned to the ground, teachers have been forced to flee and thousands of schoolchildren have ended up as child-soldiers – only half of the children in CAR are in school.
Abdel is back in school after losing two years of education as a result of fleeing. He is not always able to be in class because the family survives by collecting wood and selling it on the local market. The income is providing the children with one meal a day – usually an evening-meal.
“When we are attending school we collect wood in the afternoon outside of school-hours, but sometimes when we have nothing to eat we have to look for wood during the day as well,” Abdel explains.
Despite the hard life Abdel has no wish to return to his village. “I want to stay in Ndélé. I do not want to return to my village because my school and my house has been burned down – I have nothing to return to.”
The Danish Refugee Council is one of 12 organisations joining the collection campaign ‘Danmarksindsamlingen’ February 3rd to support child-refugees. The collected funds will enable the Danish Refugee Council to assist children like Abdel in replacing traumas of the past with a future.
The Danish Refugee Council will implement an intensive educational program targeting children who have suffered an educational setback as a result of conflict. At the same time the organisation will support 19 schools to provide regular education, qualified teachers and teaching materials to 7.500 children including 100 former child-soldiers. Further initiatives includes literacy courses to 1000 adults.