LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The number of child soldiers in the Central African Republic (CAR) has surged since the outbreak of the conflict in 2012 to between 3,500 and 6,000, the United Nations’ children’s agency UNICEF said on Friday.
UNICEF warned that 2.3 million children have been affected by the ongoing violence and more than 600,000 people have been forced to flee their homes as the instability has spread across the country.
“There must be no further delay in taking effective action; there can be no excuse for failing the children and families of the Central African Republic,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s executive director, in a statement.
Since December 12, 80 percent of primary schools in CAR have stayed closed, leaving 70 percent of primary school aged children out of school.
UNICEF warned these children who are not in school are the most vulnerable to recruitment.
Cases of sexual violence and rape against girls are now being reported to the UN as the violence escalates in the African nation.
“Action must be impartial and swift to stop the targeting of children, to protect schools, health facilities and transit centres, and to provide care and support to victims – with no impunity for the perpetrators of these outages against children,” Lake added.
The warning comes after fresh attacks in the capital city Bangui on Thursday, when as many as 140 civilians were killed.
On Dec 5, the UN Security Council authorised an African-led and French-backed peacekeeping force to be deployed into CAR in an attempt to curb the mounting violence.
The Security Council cited human rights violations such as rape, extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence against women and girls, the recruitment and use of children and attacks against civilians among their reasons for reaching the resolution to send peacekeeping forces.