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CAR: Insecurity in north persists - UNICEF

NAIROBI, 15 October 2007 (IRIN) - A continuing wave of violence in northern Central African Republic (CAR) has led to the displacement of at least 290,000 civilians since 2005 and the "complete decimation" of public infrastructure, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has said.

"The security situation remains volatile throughout northern CAR, particularly in the northwestern prefectures bordering Chad where government troops, rebel groups and highway bandits continue to clash," UNICEF said in a report on 15 October.

The UNICEF report, covering the month of September, said lack of protection was a major issue for many women and children caught up in the CAR's "multi-faceted" crisis.

The CAR, with an estimated population of 4.2 million, has experienced more than a decade of armed conflict, mostly centered in the north where anti-government rebel groups operate.

UNICEF said current figures estimate that 291,000 people had already been displaced; 212,000 of them within the country and 79,000 have fled into neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Sudan. In return, the agency said, CAR had received thousands of refugees from the conflicts in the Sudan and Chad.

The UN Security Council authorised on 25 September a new joint UN-European Union "multi-dimensional" peacekeeping mission to Chad and CAR, of which France, the CAR's former colonial power, would be the largest single troop contributor. Deployment is expected to start in November.

HRW report

On 14 September Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a new report that government troops, notably the presidential guard, had carried out hundreds of unlawful killings and burned thousands of civilian homes since mid-2005 in their counter-insurgency campaign in northern CAR.

The HRW report, State of Anarchy: Rebellion and Abuses Against Civilians, detailed the human rights abuses and breaches of the laws of war committed in northern CAR by both rebel groups and government forces, as well as attacks by groups of bandits in the northwest known as `zaraguinas’, who often kidnapped children for ransom.

For its part, UNICEF said: "Children continue to be used in the armed conflict, particularly in the northwest… rape and GBV [gender-based violence] remain prevalent."

"Although constrained by funding, UNICEF is continuing to work closely with its specialised partner agencies in order to improve these indicators in an effort to enhance human welfare and development across this forgotten country," the agency added.


The agency said CAR had some of the continent's worst child survival indicators, with an average infant mortality rate of 106 per thousand live births and an under-5 mortality rate of 176.

Noting that malnutrition continued to be a significant problem in the country, UNICEF said at least 38 percent of children under the age of five suffered from chronic malnutrition and a further 10 percent suffered from acute malnutrition.



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