Nearly three years after the “devastating” conflict began in the Central African Republic (CAR), an estimated 1.2 million children are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, said the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
“The violence that has plagued this country has had a devastating impact on the lives of children,” said UNICEF's Representative in the Central African Republic, Mohamed Fall in a news release, adding that to meet the overwhelming humanitarian needs, access and greater international support are essential.
According to UNICEF estimates, more than two million children have been affected by the violence which first broke out in December 2012 and which reached crisis levels in December 2013 following clashes that led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands in the capital, Bangui.
About 400,000 people remain displaced within the country, and renewed clashes in September created an additional 39,000 internally displaced people in Bangui and a further half a million people are living as refugees in neighbouring countries, UNICEF said.
The agency said that insecurity and underfunding continue to put urgent lifesaving activities at risk, while attacks on humanitarian conveys threaten the deployment of relief supplies to the interior of the country.
According to UNICEF, Pope Francis was expected to visit the country on Sunday, for a two-day visit aimed at promoting reconciliation.
UNICEF said that a song for peace, written and sung by children, that calls for national unity and an end to the fighting has been playing on radio stations ahead of the Pope's arrival.
“We are hopeful that the voices of these children will be heard, and that the Pope's visit to CAR will promote reconciliation, in a country that is in desperate need of peace,” said Mr. Fall.
Further, UNICEF called on all parties to the conflict to grant unrestricted access to organizations seeking to aid those affected by the crisis.
The agency said that even in areas that are not affected by the conflict, communities continue to need support, with nearly one third of the population having no access to safe drinking water and 41 percent of children under five are chronically malnourished.
Of the required USD 70.9 million in funds to provide urgent lifesaving interventions for the most vulnerable in 2015, UNICEF has received only USD 37 million, just over 50 percent of the required amount, despite the scale of the emergency.