A ghost townBossangoa is a town in the north-west of the CAR, and the birth-place of deposed president François Bozize. The town, seized by seleka rebels in March 2013, has been hard-hit by the ongoing crisis in the country. In the last few weeks, the situation has intensified as the much-anticipated presidential and parliamentary elections approach, and the Pope announced a controversial visit.
Bossangoa is often described by journalists and aid workers as a ghost town. The streets, lined with abandoned buildings, are deserted. Even the usually bustling market is empty. Many people have fled the fighting between Muslim and Christian militias. According to the United Nations, the violence has displaced close to 100,000 in the area surrounding Bossangoa alone.
Hundreds of thousands of children and their families are struggling with significant humanitarian challenges. Through our emergency relief programme, we have been working tirelessly in Bossangoa providing much-needed help and support to vulnerable children and the wider community there.
How we’ve been helping
We have been working in the CAR for more than two decades and launched a dedicated emergency response programme to help children and families affected by the crisis in 2014. The first-phase of the programme focused on three places badly affected by the fighting; Bossangoa, Bourma and Léré. By February, 65,000 people had benefitted from our programme, including vulnerable children, families and pregnant women.
“My greatest wish is that peace returns, so that children can grow up and study in a safe country,” Marcel Koyadouma, National Director, SOS Children’s Villages CAR
We have been:
- Running five child-friendly spaces, two of which are mobile. These are safe spaces where children are able to escape the chaos of their surroundings. In just five months in 2014, nearly 6,000 displaced children were cared for in these spaces.
- Distributing bedding and clothing to vulnerable and unaccompanied children, pregnant women and mothers with babies.
- Caring for children who have lost their families, or become separated from them, in our Children's Villages in Bouar and Bangui.
- Tracing and reuniting families who have become separated.
- Building toilets and improving sanitation in all three locations to ensure proper hygiene and good health.
In 2015, we extended our programme to include:
- Health and nutrition support - in partnership with local health service providers - for under-fives suffering from malnutrition, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
- Education support for vulnerable children and young people, including school enrolment for 200 youngsters and professional training for 50 teenagers.
- Support for teachers at seven schools, helping them to get children who have missed a lot of school back up to speed quickly and improve the quality of the education they are able to provide.
Daily life disrupted for SOS Children’s Village Bangui
Despite the security challenges, our Children's Village in the capital, Bangui, remains a safe, secure environment for the children there to grow up in. But life has undoubtedly changed for the children and staff.
“Before the crisis, we went to school without fear and felt secure,” says a child at the Village. “Today we are still afraid of going to school, afraid because at any time war can start again. Nothing reassures us that the war is over. We see the rebels everywhere with weapons in the neighbourhoods. Even in class, we often hear gunfire. At times, the teachers stop classes and ask us to go home.”
Our long-established presence in the CAR means that we have been extremely well-placed to offer humanitarian assistance to those in need. Find out more about our work in the CAR and how you can help.