It has been a year since a coup in the Central African Republic started the nation on a downward spiral. It has been a struggle to get the public attention necessary to resolve the political and security crisis in the country.
Even the warning of a potential genocide by former actress and now activist Mia Farrow did not do the trick. She managed to help draw attention to the crisis emerging in Darfur a decade ago, but her concerns this time around fell largely on deaf ears.
Now, two activist groups are trying to use the anniversary of the coup to build support for the Central African Republic. War Child calls what is happening the ‘world’s forgotten conflict.’ Just like aid groups are doing for Syria, War Child makes its appeal based on what children have witnessed. The attacks on children outlined in the report are harrowing. Recruitment of child soldiers has led more than 6,000 children to join armed groups.
“A bullet hit my house while I was in bed. A soldier broke into my house and raped me,” said one twelve year-old girl to the organization.
Roughly half of a million children estimated to have been forced to flee their homes due to the conflict. Then there are the 100,000 children estimated to experience malnutrition this year.
“Every day the crisis in the Central African Republic is worsening – and children are the innocent victims. Our survey shows the appalling impact on children and young people, who are losing their parents, their homes and their futures,” said War Child UK CEO Rob Williams.
A more detailed publication from Human Rights Watch details the ongoing human rights abuses committed by the groups who are fighting each other.
“The Seleka coup last year unleashed a reign of havoc and terror, evoking a violent and abusive response from anti-balaka militia, and both continue to endanger the people of the Central African Republic,” explained Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
The increase in fighting in December is what escalated warnings of genocide and a moderate increase in the international response. Unfortunately, that has not been enough, says Bekele. The ongoing humanitarian crisis puts a total of 2.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
The problem is that only 21% of the $547 million that the UN says is needed to respond to the crisis in the Central African Republic has been funded. There is not agreement over whether genocide is possible. Attacks targeting Muslims have contributed to the concerns, but it is the humanitarian situation that is reason for worry.
“Huge gaps remain in providing the most basic security for the people of the Central African Republic,” Bekele said. “Thousands whose lives remain in imminent danger depend on the urgent deployment of additional peacekeeping troops and expanded protection from those already on the ground.”
What isn’t happening is change from the status quo. The international pressures caused by the problems in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, in addition to Syria and the recovery in the Philippines, mean that the Central African Republic risks falling through the cracks. War Child and Human Rights Watch are hoping that telling the stories of the atrocities experienced by people in the country will prevent this from becoming a forgotten conflict.
Considering how hard it has been to get money to other emergencies, optimism is difficult at this juncture.