GENEVA (AFP) – Hundreds of children, some as young as two, were orphaned or separated from their parents in the chaos of a bloody coup in the Central African Republic, the Red Cross said Thursday
Nearly half of the tens of thousands of people who fled to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo were under 14-years-old, said spokeswoman Jessica Sallabank.
She told reporters about 2,000 children had arrived without their parents.
“We are extremely concerned about the number of children, aged between 2 and 14, who have been orphaned or who have been separated from the their families in this period of displacement and chaos,” said the spokeswoman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Central Africa was plunged into chaos when the Seleka rebel coalition seized power a little over a week ago on the grounds that the regime had failed to abide by a January peace deal.
Since December, in the unrest leading up to the coup, more than 35,000 people have fled to DR Congo, the UN’s humanitarian aid agency said late last week.
The UN refugee agency said it was preparing to open a second camp for Central Africa refugees near Zongo in northwestern DR Congo due to the influx, that would house 25,000 people.
Sallabank of the Red Cross said many people were choosing to set up makeshift camps along the Ubangui River closer to the border, rather than go to the camps.
The IFRC launched an appeal for 1.13 million Swiss francs ($1.19 million, 930,000 euros) last week to help 15,000 people outside the camps for the next six months, she said, lamenting that so far the organisation had received no money for the operation.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said the situation inside the chronically unstable country had improved somewhat, with renewed access to water, electricity and fuel, but cautioned that “the calm is very fragile.”
Continued tensions, the risk of looting and the fact that a number of the organisation’s vehicles had been stolen in recent days was complicating its work, spokeswoman Marie-Servane Desjonqueres told reporters.