Two million children in the Central African Republic are without basic social services and are exposed to violence following a power grab by the Se'le'ka rebel coalition and subsequent insecurity and looting, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Friday said, warning that more children will be at risk if the country does not stabilize quickly.
"Children in the Central African Republic were some of the most vulnerable in Africa even before the recent upsurge in fighting," said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF´s Regional Director.
"It is imperative to have full and secure access to communities affected by the conflict. With every lost day, every thwarted delivery and every stolen supply, more children may die," Fontaine warned.
The Se'le'ka overran the capital city of Bangui on 24 March, forcing President Francois Bozize' to flee. The developments were condemned by both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council, which called on all parties in CAR to protect civilians.
This is the latest wave of fighting since December 2012 when the rebel coalition launched a series of attacks, taking control of major towns.
At least 4.1 million people, almost half of whom are children, are now directly affected by the crisis, which includes not being able to attend schools or getting enough to eat, UNICEF estimated in Friday´s news release. Since December, 1.2 million people have been cut off from essential services.
Earlier in the week, the UN agency said ten metric tonnes of emergency supplies were stolen from its main warehouse. The supplies included water kits, blankets, mosquito nets, plastic sheeting, and essential medicines and nutrition items for 30,000 of the most vulnerable people, specifically children and women, in the coming days and weeks.
"For every day we cannot deliver aid where it´s needed, there is an increased risk of disease and epidemics," said Souleymane Diabate, UNICEF Central African Republic representative. "How will the Central African Republic ever move forward if essential humanitarian supplies are stolen from the people who need them the most?"
UNICEF reiterated its calls Friday on all parties in the conflict "to immediately stop the looting of humanitarian supplies, to ensure free and secure access of humanitarian actors to those in need, and to ensure that all involved respect humanitarian principles, human rights and the rule of law.
The time has come for the Se'le'ka coalition "to really demonstrate how committed it is to humanitarian principles and human rights for all Central Africans," said Fontaine.
"The needs and rights of children must be the priority for the new Government," he added.
UN agencies, funds and programmes, including UNICEF, slimmed down their activities in CAR this week due to the insecurity, but still have a presence in the country.