Even more worrying are the attacks by Coupeur de Route bandits, who continue to wreak havoc across the country’s northwest, burning and looting houses and kidnapping and killing civilians, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported.
“Many villagers have fled in terror. Attacks on humanitarian workers are also becoming disturbingly common,” the agency said. “The ongoing insecurity has also led to the complete decimation of public infrastructure across the north. Many schools and hospitals remain closed due to the conflict and thousands of families have lost their homes and possessions.
“Economic development is stagnating in much of the north and jobs remain in short supply. This chronic poverty combined with the direct impact of the conflict is severely undermining many families’ ability to provide for their children,” it added. Overall, 1,000,000 people gave been affected by the ongoing conflict, mainly in the northwest, in part linked to the strife in neighbouring Sudan’s Darfur region and Chad, with 197,000 people displaced internally, in many cases living in the bush, and a further 98,000 fleeing to Cameroon, Chad and Sudan. In return, CAR has received thousands of refugees from Chad and Sudan.
In the northern prefectures, more than 610,000 women and children continue to endure chronic poverty and conflict which has been responsible for decimating both lives and livelihoods. A classic example of a “forgotten emergency,” CAR has suffered from more than a decade of political instability. Some 20 per cent of children die before their fifth birthday. The worst-affected regions are in the northwest.
Despite financial constraints and the challenges posed by ongoing insecurity, UNICEF is continuing to extend its field presence in an effort to reach more of the country’s vulnerable women and children, significantly expanding field offices and supporting family healthcare centres, safe water projects and schools.
The majority of those affected by the conflict are women and children in a country where maternal mortality rates are amongst the highest on the continent at 1,355 per 100,000, the agency said. Chronic malnutrition affects 38 per cent of children, whilst one in 10 suffers from the acute variety. A third of the population completely lack access to safe water and sanitation.
School enrolment remains low with many schools having been destroyed in the northern prefectures. Child soldiers are still widely used in many areas, particularly in the northwest. Human rights violations continue to occur countrywide, while gender-based violence and the kidnapping of minors by armed bandits remain all too common, according to UNICEF.