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Growing up in the Central African Republic, a path fraught with obstacles

DSG Jan Eliasson, at #RCAConf

16 November 2016 – Growing up healthy, going to school, not being enlisted in an armed group, and avoiding sexual violence and early pregnancies: for children in the Central African Republic, every stage of life is fraught with obstacles.

The health care system in the Central African Republic is failing, just like all basic services that are strongly affected by the armed conflict that ravaged the country between 2012 and 2014. The violence has not been completely eradicated, despite the deployment of international troops and successful democratic elections in 2016.

The first obstacle that mothers have to overcome is childbirth. According to figures published by UNICEF’s office in Central Africa, almost 9 out of 1000 women die while giving birth. Furthermore, one child out of 7 dies before the age of 5, one of the highest death rates in the world. Of those who survive, 41% suffer from malnutrition, a condition which has a lifelong impact and affects the child’s physical and intellectual development. The whole country is affected by food insecurity and children are the first victims.

Hundreds of thousands of children grow up far from their villages and have become refugees displaced either within the Central African Republic or into neighbouring countries. Nearly 500,000 Central Africans live abroad and nearly 400,000 are internally displaced.

Even before the last politico-military crisis, only a third of school-age children attended school, according to data from 2011-2012.

Girls are even more affected than boys. They are subjected to violence, married very young and often become pregnant when they are still children themselves. Nearly 3 out of 10 girls marry before the age of 15.

Thousands of children are recruited by armed groups. “In total, 2,679 children were taken by armed groups…UNICEF and its partners have developed a reintegration system for children that involves the local population”, states a report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations that was published in April 2016.

The country is at the bottom of the ranking of the Global Youth Index published by the Secretariat of the Commonwealth, according to a recent article by the humanitarian information agency IRIN, titled The Central African Republic: the world place to be young?

United Nations agencies provide assistance to the government of the Central African Republic in its efforts to improve the living conditions of its population.

On Thursday 17 November, a donor conference organised by the European Union will take place in Brussels. The United Nations, represented by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, will participate as well. The President of the Central African Republic Faustin Archange Touadéra will present his National Plan for Recovery and Peacebuilding , which will cost an estimated 3 billion dollars over the course of 5 years.

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