Background to the conflict in CAR
The Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the least-developed countries in the world. Life expectancy is as low as 48 years old for men, and 51 years old for women. The country is bigger than Spain and Portugal combined, and it has been politically unstable since independence from the French in 1960.
The latest in a series of coups and mutinies in the country occurred in March 2013, when a coalition of opposition rebels overthrew the president. The rebels, known as the Seleka, installed a Muslim leader - the first in the country's history. While there is now a Muslim minority in power, the majority of the population are Christian.
Although the Seleka was officially disbanded by the new President, ex-rebels continue to launch vicious attacks across the country. In retaliation, local Christian civilian protection groups have emerged. The conflict has now become sectarian in nature, and some UN officials have warned that the conflict could become a genocide.
How has the population been affected?
The violence is mainly between militia groups in the countryside, with killings and atrocities being reported in rural areas. Due to a lack of security, the UN and other agencies are unable to go to remote areas where much of the conflict is occurring. Outside the capital, most schools and hospitals have been looted and are not functional or able to help those in need.
- 70% of children are no longer going to school.
- There are an estimated 3,500 child soldiers.
- 400,000 people, 10% of the population, have fled their homes.
- More than a million people, 25% of the population, need food aid.
- Currently 2,500 African peacekeepers and 400 French troops in the country are trying to restore peace. These numbers will soon increase to 3,600 and 1,200.
Are the SOS Children's Villages in the CAR safe?
There are two SOS Children's Village in the CAR: Bangui and Bouar. Both SOS Villages have enough food items for the moment, and so far local markets remain open.
The capital city of Bangui is relatively calm, and in the SOS Children's Village there is a greater sense of security due to the presence of peacekeeping forces. A few months ago, SOS Bangui had a vehicle stolen in a robbery believed to be linked to the instability, making it harder to obtain supplies regularly.
In the West of the country, there have been some reported attacks close to SOS Children's Village Bouar. Fortunately, no SOS staff or children have been physically harmed. During recent attacks, children at SOS Bouar had to hide in various buildings in the Children's Village for protection. Therefore, children in SOS Bouar have been more psychologically affected by the conflict than those at SOS Bangui. Furthermore, some SOS Mothers from Bouar have fled from the Village due to the nearby turmoil, and have yet to return.
Displaced families in Bossangoa
A town in the north-west of the country, Bossangoa, was overtaken by rebels during the coup d'etat in March. Today, there are an estimated 35,000 displaced people in need of assistance in the area. Most live within the Catholic mission compound, and half are children.
The security situation in Bossangoa is extremely volatile. SOS Children is in contact with multinational forces to see if the army are able to ensure the necessary security to SOS staff and equipment. Once security has been confirmed, we are keen to work alongside other organisations to support families and children in the region. If possible, we plan to build a new Children's Village to home orphaned children, and begin child protection and family support activities. The ongoing violence, and the lack of a comprehensive humanitarian aid response, mean that our ambitions rely upon whether security can be established.
Emergency programme in the CAR
Many displaced families have fled to neighbouring countries of Cameroon and Chad. Since June 2013, we have been supporting families in refugee camps in eastern Cameroon and the Chad town of Gore. SOS Children is providing food for refugees, as well as nourishment to under fives, pregnant women and new mothers.
SOS Children has been a continuous presence in the Central African Republic for more than two decades. During this time, we have amassed a team of well over 300 local childcare experts here as well as in Chad and Cameroon. Our five medical centres alongside our social centres and other key facilities are located close to the areas of greatest need, leaving us poised to deliver high-quality care to those who need our help.
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Find out more about our work in the Central African Republic