During the conflict in Central African Republic, which erupted last year following a political coup, nearly 1 million people were displaced. Families fled their homes to seek areas of relative safety. Many were forced into camps for internally displaced people (IDPs).
“At the peak of the crisis, so many children were separated from their parents”, says Jésus Jonas Zokayando, the Director of SOS Children’s Village Bangui. One of these was little Marc. It is estimated that he is four-years-old, and malnutrition has left him small for his age. We provided Marc with a loving home at the Children's Village.
Marc is just one of many children we care for in the CAR. You can help give a home to the most vulnerable by sponsoring a child with SOS Children today.
Lost and alone
The sectarian fighting in CAR between Christian, Muslim and other militias created a chaotic and terrifying environment. It was amongst this violence that Marc lost his parents. Somehow, he had ended up alone at the camp for IDPs at Bangui airport.
The camp is providing temporary shelter for more than 100,000 people. They live in crammed tents, makeshift shelters, and have inadequate sanitation facilities. Small children who have lost their family are vulnerable here. Although Marc was taken in by another family they mistreated him rather then offering him the safety and care he needed.
Sanctuary at SOS Children's Village
Fortunately for Marc, his disturbing circumstances were discovered by organisations working to protect children's rights. He was soon moved to an SOS family home at our Children's Village in Bangui. Jésus, the director of the Village, said that,
“When Marc came to the Village, he was extremely malnourished. He was underweight. We put him on a special nutrition programme. He has been receiving special meals and he is now progressing well. Already his health is improving - and he is beginning to interact with other children.”
Since December 2013, SOS Children's Village Bangui has been a sanctuary for thousands of displaced people. The SOS Primary School was converted into a shelter, which at its peak in February 2014 housed about 4,500 people.
Not being affiliated with any religion meant that we could provide shelter for anyone who needed it. At times, the Village was guarded by international peacekeeping soldiers, which helped to create a sense of safety and refuge.
Although the situation in CAR is still volatile, our Children's Villages in Bangui and Bouar are now reporting relative calm and stability. consequently, both Villages have reopened their schools. At Bangui, SOS staff member Benedetta explains the unusual, but necessary, arrangements,
“Schools reopened on 17 February and they are doing double shifts. The morning is for those children already enrolled. The afternoon is for the displaced children, and children from the community, because other schools are still closed.”
As stability increases, our emergency work in CAR is reaching recovery stages. We are now able to focus on our primary goals of child protection, child and maternal health, and education.
Along with other organisations such as Save the Children and UNICEF, we are working to trace and unify families that were separated during the CAR crisis. In the meantime, we are providing care for unaccompanied children while we try to locate their families.
Warmth of a loving home
We hope that Marc's family will be found soon, and he can be reunited with his parents. While he is at SOS Children's Village Bangui, he is receiving medical care, and the love and support of an SOS family. Sharing a hope for the future, Jésus, the director of our Village in Bangui says:
“It is a great pleasure to see Marc smile every time I come to the Village. Whenever he sees me, he runs towards me shouting Papa! Papa! It gives me great joy to see him now enjoying the warmth of a loving home. It is encouraging to see such a child, who is the future of the country, growing well, even though he had been neglected by others.”
You can sponsor a child who is growing up in our Children's Village in Bangui. Alternatively, give regularly to support our emergency and recovery efforts in CAR, and help children to be reunited with their families. Find out more...