Central African Republic conflict affects 2.3 million children: UNICEF


People are gathered during a disarmament operation by French militaries in Bangui, on December 9, 2013. French troops on Monday began disarming fighters in the Central African Republic.



UNICEF on Monday condemned the "horrific killing, abuse and harm" inflicted on children in the Central African Republic.

"For too long, the lives of children in the Central African Republic have not counted nor been counted in this forgotten crisis," Anthony Lake, the agency's executive director, said.

"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," Lake said.

France, which has deployed 1,600 troops to CAR on a peace-keeping mission, said it would seek additional funding form the European Union.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said although the UN-authorized French mission had helped calm the CAR capital of Bangui, it's still possible that violence could worsen the already dire humanitarian situation.

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"That is a real, big problem," Fabius told Europe 1 radio on Sunday. "Tomorrow, I'll go to the Council of Foreign Ministers and I will ask (European partners) for stepped-up, more robust aid, including on the ground."

France hopes to create a European fund that will help pay for overseas interventions such as its current operation in the CAR, according to the Associated Press.

Canada has agreed to give $5 million to the international mission in the CAR, in a move announced by Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird on Sunday.

French troops are the only European representatives currently on the ground in the CAR, although Britain, Poland, Germany, Spain, and Belgium have provided assistance. The European Union has provided $68 million for the African-Union led intervention mission, according to AP figures. 

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said on Monday that the CAR needs "urgent assistance" to prevent the food security situation from worsening there, as Muslim Seleka rebels, who came to power in March, continue to spar with Christians.

The FAO estimated that about 1.29 million people — over 40 percent of the CAR's rural population — are in need of "urgent assistance" with food, and their numbers could grow if the political situation renders them unable to plant crops.