Children hardest hit by ongoing violence in Central African Republic

Published: 8 December 2014 10:56 CET

By Nelly Muluka, IFRC and Gerald Bikombi, Central African Red Cross Society

Upon their arrival at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Bangui, Central African Republic, several children run toward the Red Cross team, clapping their hands and cheering, a sign of appreciation for the team’s arrival with humanitarian aid, to keep them going, at least for the time being. These children, victims of a war that is not theirs, bear the trauma of family disintegration, dropping out of school, abuse, movement restriction, insecurity and the inability to be who they are – children!

Among them is Benicia Anjikapou, 9, who lived with her parents and four siblings in the neighborhood of Combatant before violence erupted. She was a class two pupil at a nearby primary school, living the normal life of a child.

When armed clashes broke out in Bangui, her world was turned upside down. The worst happened. Her father, who worked in the capital, did not return home – he had been killed.

“Mother told us everything about what was happening in the country and we were afraid. We missed father and needed someone to protect us. Fortunately,  a friend of mother’s moved in with us, giving us  a bit of hope in the midst of the chaos,” says Benicia.

But the relief of this family was short-lived. According to Benicia, families who welcomed friends and relatives became suspect of harbouring enemies and her mother quickly received information that the family was in danger.

“There were persistent gunshots in our neighborhood and many people died. That was also the night we fled from our home and moved to this camp. By the following morning, all our household items had been taken and the house damaged,” says Benicia, adding that her extended family was also displaced and joined them at the IDP camp, where the family of 25 has been living for the past eight months.

It was also the time Benicia and her siblings, along with many other children at the camp, dropped out of school. Mathias Yadjemai oversees the IDP camp and says several children have been separated from their parents and have no knowledge of their whereabouts.

“There are over 50 unaccompanied children here, some of whom do not know their own names, let alone those of their parents,” says Mathias, adding that caring for the children and other IDPs has not been easy.

“With restricted movement due to insecurity, families are totally dependent on aid, which does not come easily. There is a food shortage, darkness as a result of limited sources of light, lack of adequate shelter and bedding and many other basics,” says Mathias, adding that it is unlikely the IDPs will return home any time soon since they lost their livelihoods to the violence.

He is, however, grateful for the support that the Central African Red Cross Society has been giving to the camp, providing items like blankets, sleeping mats, plastic buckets, solar lamps and collapsible jerry cans, purchased through a revised emergency appeal by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in support of the National Society.

“With support from the IFRC, we are assisting affected families in many ways,” says Jean Walegue, programme coordinator for the Central African Red Cross Society. “But the longer people stay in the camps, and the longer increased insecurity limits their movements, the more vulnerable they become. We need to ensure these people are looked after, not just now, but in the months ahead.”


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