THOUSANDS of children recruited as soldiers and forced into sexual slavery by armed groups in the Central African Republic can’t escape because there is simply nowhere for them to go, World Vision officials said today.
World Vision Child Protection Manager in the capital, Bangui, Edouard Ndong, said the international development agency was urgently seeking funding to establish child protection programs in the western part of the country where thousands of children are being used by local militias.
“Abuse of children in the current environment of the Central African Republic is rampant with regular reports of child-rape in Boali, a town 100 km northwest of the capital,” Mr Ndong said.
Children in the troubled republic have been forced into joining militias because they don’t have anything to eat, have no family to take care of them or are not going to school he said.
“As well as taking part in fighting and being used for sex, children are also being employed by militias as porters, spies and cooks,” Mr Ndong said.
Mr Ndong said the militia in Boali had told World Vision that they are willing to release children if there are programs to take care of them, but humanitarian organisations are struggling to find funding to establish the programs. Safe access to many parts of the country is proving difficult as the fighting continues to rage.
Almost 1,000 children are part of a local militia in Boali, including more than 150 girls, 12 – 18 years old.
“World Vision is urgently seeking funding to establish child protection programs in Boali and several other towns in the western part of the Central African Republic,” Mr Ndong said.
Proposed activities include the establishment of Child-Friendly Spaces – safe havens for children that will provide emotional support to help them recover from violence and sexual abuse. World Vision also plans to establish local child protection committees, where community leaders and ordinary individuals will be trained to take care of abused children and take action to prevent further harm.
As part of its relief efforts World Vision, in partnership with the World Food Program, will begin distribution of food to schools to feed more than 50,000 children in the coming weeks.
Ethnic and sectarian violence broke out in the Central African Republic following the ousting of President François Bozizé in March last year.
Source: World Vision Australia