BANGUI, Central African Republic, May 5, 2015 /CNW/ - Leaders of armed groups in the Central African Republic agreed today to release all children associated with their forces and to immediately end any new child recruitment.
An estimated 6,000 to 10,000 children are currently associated with the country's armed factions according to UNICEF. The figure includes those serving as combatants and used for sexual purposes, as well as those working as cooks, messengers and in other roles.
"This is a major step forward in the protection of children in this country," said Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF's Representative. "The Central African Republic is one of the worst places in the world to be a child, and UNICEF is eager to work with local authorities to help reunite these children with their families."
The agreement, which was facilitated by UNICEF and its partners, was signed during a week-long national reconciliation forum in the capital Bangui, from May 4 to 11, aiming to restore peace to the strife-torn country. The forum brings together members of the government and parliament, political parties, civil society organizations, religious and community leaders as well as the leaders of the armed groups.
Following the signing of the declaration, the parties will agree on a schedule for the release of the children, for their reunification with their families and communities, and for the provision of protection and support to help them to rebuild their lives.
The leaders of the armed groups have also agreed to give UNICEF and its partners immediate and unrestricted access to the areas under their control in order to identify and verify the number of affected children and plan the release process.
More than two years of violence in the Central African Republic has created one of the world's worst – and least visible—humanitarian crises. The release of the children by the country's armed groups will place additional demands on the already limited funding available to respond to the emergency.
In 2014, UNICEF and partners secured the release of over 2,800 children in the Central African Republic, including 646 girls, from armed groups. That compares to the 500 children released by armed groups in the country in 2013.
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.
UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.
SOURCE UNICEF Canada
For further information: Tiffany Baggetta, UNICEF Canada, 416-482-6552 ext. 8892, 647-308-4806 (mobile), [email protected]