For months, militia-based violence has raged across CAR, with unrest escalating over the past month. In the capital Bangui, a violence hotspot, local people had sought shelter at our SOS Children's Village on the city's eastern fringe. This week, our team on the ground informs us that peacekeepers have succeeded in disarming militia groups in the capital. This means people have been able to leave the Village and return to their homes.
Security has also improved in the western city of Bouar, where our second Children's Village is based. The departure of the main militia group from the area means that violent clashes have ceased. However, the presence of other armed group leaves the situation tense, with shootings and looting commonplace. Villages around the city remain empty, and thousands of homes have been looted and destroyed. As calm returns, people are beginning to go back to their homes.
All children are safe in both Villages. Much of our normal work has been able to resume as well. The nursery and primary school have reopened in both Villages, as well as the medical centre, enabling us to begin providing essential services for local families. Rising prices in Bangui means everyday supplies are more expensive, and our Village in Bouar is without power, meaning our team has to buy food on a daily basis. With an electrician on the way, we should soon have the Village back up and running.
What is the cause of the violence in CAR?
- The latest in a long history of coups was staged by the predominantly Muslim Sekeka rebel group, which took power in March 2013.
- Upon seizing power, Seleka forces allegedly committed a number of atrocities and human rights abuses, including gang rape, mass killings, conscripting children and looting aid.
- Seleka leader Michel Djotodia disbanded the Seleka after becoming interim president, but a number of ex-Seleka personnel continued to carry out attacks.
- Ex-Seleka fighters are accused of targeting Christians. Christian militias have sprung up in retaliation, carrying out systematic killings of Muslims. The UN says both sides may be guilty of war crimes and warns of a continued risk of genocide.
Today's humanitarian crisis
- At least 4.6 million of CAR's 5.2 million inhabitants have been affected so far.
- About half of those affected are children.
- Nearly 700,000 people have been forced from their homes. More than a third of these people have been displaced from the capital Bangui.
- The rise of Christian militia groups means that Muslims are at particular risk. Many in the west of the country are attempting to flee to neighbouring Cameroon.
What are we doing to help?
We have worked in CAR for over twenty years. Today, we are using our knowledge and experience to help the country's most vulnerable people at a time of crisis:
- Our Children's Village in Bouar is located near the border with Chad and Cameroon. Here, we are able to offer shelter to families and children fleeing the violence. Our focus is on unaccompanied children and new and expectant mothers.
- We are providing food for hungry people, and essential nourishment for babies and young children.
- Our presence in Chad and Cameroon means we are able to help refugees on the other side of the border. We are also targeting refugee camps across the border.
- In the capital Bangui, we are able to offer safety and shelter in our Children's Village during times of violence.
You can help by sponsoring a child. This way, you can help give a vulnerable child a loving family and a safe, secure home in a dangerous country.
Alternatively, find out more about our work in CAR.