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Relentless Violence Against Children in Central African Republic an Affront to Humanity, Says UNICEF

New York/Bangui, Dec 17 2013 (IPS) - More than half a million people have been displaced so far by the conflict in the Central African Republic, and latest reports show that an average of three people every hour have been killed in fighting during the last two weeks alone, says the UN children’s agency UNICEF.

The agency said that violence continues unabated, and the horrific killings, abuse and harm being inflicted on children are an affront to humanity.

“For too long, the lives of children in the Central African Republic have not counted nor been counted in this forgotten crisis,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

“The facts are right in front of us. This vicious conflict is now affecting 2.3 million children. Children are being killed because they are Christian or Muslim. Children are being forced to flee their homes and hide in terror to avoid the fighters. Children are witnessing horrific acts of violence. Children are being recruited into armed groups – possibly as many as 6,000. These brutal attacks on children are an affront to humanity,” added Lake.

Despite the volatile security situation, UNICEF continues to support critical services for displaced families in conflict-affected parts of the country including Bangui, Bossongoa and Kaga Bandoro.

So far this year, UNICEF and its partners have vaccinated more than 480,000 children under five against measles. More than 47,000 displaced people – mostly in Bossangoa — have received blankets, plastic sheeting, soap and jerry cans provided by UNICEF.

About 280,000 people now have access to safe water. UNICEF also continues to support safe spaces for children for education and recreational activities, as part of efforts to address the trauma experienced by so many children, according to a press release Monday.

On Friday, UNICEF airlifted 77 metric tons of blankets, soap, jerry cans, medicine, water purification supplies, plastic sheeting, and health and midwifery kits to the capital Bangui. In the last 12 months, UNICEF has dispatched four other cargo planes of life-saving supplies for war-affected families.

“We must all do more,” said Lake. “But the ultimate responsibility to end this cruel and bitter conflict, and stop the abuse of children, rests with those who are engaging in violence. Schools, health facilities and transit centres need to be protected. And those who continue to harm children should be held accountable.”

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