On 16 June, UNICEF organized and led a ceremony which saw the release of 120 child soldiers from the rebel group Union for Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) in Gordil, located in the Vakaga region of northeastern CAR. The ceremony was attended by UFDR General Zakaria Damane, the Minister of Social Affairs, UNICEF Representative Mahimbo Mdoe and the Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzer. UNICEF distributed clothes, schoolbooks and pens at the ceremony. The event was captured by the Spanish TVE network and the UK's Channel 4. The reporters continue their tour of the Vakaga region this week.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has announced that it will launch an operation to airlift emergency food supplies to over 2,600 Sudanese refugees who recently entered Sam Ouandja, located in the Vakaga region of North-eastern CAR.
UNICEF worked with International Partnership for Human Development (IPHD) throughout the month of May to implement a growth monitoring programme in the Ouham and Lobaye prefectures. Last month a total of 4,878 children from 0 to five years were weighed, 3,891 in Ouham and 987 in Lobaye. A total of 1,205 children were found to be affected by moderate stunting (25 per cent) and 408 by severe stunting (eight per cent). Almost 19,000 children have been reached since the programme began in February and a total of 475 sensitization meetings (including hygiene, breast-feeding, and child nutrition) have been carried out in the two districts. The new programme, including nutritional monitoring, has begun this week.
It has come to UNICEF's attention that 23 cases of Konzo Syndrome (spastic paralysis) have occurred in Health Region 02 during the month of February. The disease is caused by intoxication from the consumption of bitter cassava. A response plan is currently being prepared by the Ministry of Health.
UNICEF has been involved in the celebration for the Day of the African Child which was held on 16 June in Bangui. Celebrations were carried out in 30 localities across the town. Led by the Youth Minister, the ceremony included games, sketches, recitals and concluded with a girls football match. In the afternoon, a press conference, headed by the local NGO "Les Enfants d'Abord" informed the journalists on the problems faced by the children of Bangui.
UNICEF and its partners helped facilitate the inclusion of HIV/AIDS awareness activities into this week's celebrations for the Day of the African Child. Many children contributed to the event, including 330 HIV/AIDS peer educators, 300 youths from the Health Group and 225 street children. In addition 300 Guides, Scouts and Evangelist youths helped mobilize 5,000 youths to raise awareness on child trafficking and labour.
The peer educators have this week organized group activities for 98 HIV/AIDS orphans, for whom they are acting as godparents, in order to provide an important support mechanism for the children.
80 leaders from 16 local Evangelist churches in Bangui, who are part of the African Youth Centre, attended a meeting to discuss suitable HIV/AIDS interventions, sexual practice, and gender-based violence. It is hoped that their work will cover up to 30,000 church attending youths aged 10 to 24 and that their work will eventually extend to other regions.
UNICEF helped facilitating an information session this week that was held in Bangui to support HIV positive parents from eight districts. The event aimed at enhancing the prevention of parent-child transmission and reducing the stigma associated with the disease.
This week 30 peer educators for street children (including three girls) were trained on HIV/AIDS prevention, protection and sexual violence in Bangui. The peer educators work with 300 youths in Bangui. The total number of street children living in Bangui is estimated to be more than 3,000.
Inter-agency Collaboration and Key Partnerships
UNICEF has collaborated with Medicins Sans Frontieres MSF to provide non-food items (NFI) kits (soap, mosquito net, blanket and bed mat) to all hospitalized patients attending the Paoua mobile clinic from 1 May until 31 July 2007. In total 1,300 mosquito nets, 1300 blankets and 1,300 bed mats have been provided. The aim of the project was to improve the conditions for those attending the clinic. In addition, 600 beneficiaries in Paoua hospital received supplies and hygiene training. It is hoped that both these interventions will reduce the prevalence of malaria, respiratory and other infectious diseases in the Paoua area.