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|A mother with a 3 week old baby in a displacement camp in Bangui, which is home to thousands of people sheltering from the fighting going on in Central African Republic. December 2013. Photo: Greg Funnell/Save the Children
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 13, 2013) — Save the Children teams in the Central African Republic are helping to treat children as young as three who have suffered machete and gunshot wounds.
As CAR slides further into anarchy, the number of children conscripted into armed groups has also more than doubled to at least 6,000 in recent months, according to UN figures. Beyond the physical harm, children are increasingly traumatized by what they have witnessed and experienced. Save the Children has spoken to many children who are struggling to cope, including one boy who had seen both his parents killed in the clashes.
"One of the things that will stay with me is seeing young children with machete and gunshot wounds, some of whom had to be amputated. The majority of these injuries will debilitate these children for the rest of their lives," said Dr. Ngezahayo Zephyrin coordinates Merlin and Save the Children's medical activities in Nana-Mambéré.
As fighting and instability continue across the country, the humanitarian situation threatens to spiral out of control. Health posts and hospitals have been looted and destroyed, and the Ministry of Health has only a handful surgeons for a population of 4.6 million people. At present, an estimated half a million people – many of them children - have been forced to flee their homes. They are vulnerable to disease, hunger and attacks by armed groups.
To date, Save the Children has reached nearly 40,000 children, focusing on health, child protection and nutrition. In addition to our ongoing humanitarian programs, we are currently supporting clinics and hospitals and setting up new child protection spaces in the capital, Bangui, to meet the needs of the thousands of people who have been displaced by the violence. But our work has been hampered by continuing insecurity and difficulty accessing many areas, mostly rural, affected by the violence.
Save the Children's CEO in the UK, Justin Forsyth, who just returned from the Central African Republic, said "The situation that I saw in the CAR this week was desperate. I saw a 6 year-old girl, Celine, who had lost her arm after being shot while fleeing an attack – just one of countless children who have been injured and killed in the clashes. We welcome the decision to deploy a larger African Union and French force with a stronger civilian protection mandate. But this UN-mandated force must urgently deploy outside of Bangui, to the remotest regions where so much of the violence goes on unseen."
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