Mia Farrow, renowned actress, activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, has just completed her fourth visit to the Central African Republic where she saw the impact of extreme violence and met people with stories of inspiring courage.
“In 2007, I made the first of what would now be four visits to the Central African Republic. I must have left a part of my heart here,” Farrow said, speaking from Bangui. “The courage and resilience of defenceless people facing shocking and unacceptable levels of violence is unforgettable and profoundly inspiring.”
In the town of Boda, more than four hours’ drive from the capital, Farrow met with internally displaced Muslim families trapped in an enclave surrounded by armed groups hostile to them, who spoke of living in constant fear of attacks. At the only school still functioning in town, some 400 children were crammed into three classrooms. Parents were volunteering to teach after most of the school’s teachers fled for their lives.
In Bangui, Farrow spoke to a health worker who, for security reasons, was no longer able to get to her job at the main hospital and was instead volunteering to treat women and children in a health centre in her community.
More than 2.3 million children are suffering the consequences of the crisis rocking the country. Children have been directly targeted. On average, at least one child has been maimed or killed in clashes every day in the past six months. Malnutrition rates are high and the number of children associated with armed groups could be as high as 10,000, according to the Ministry of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration. One in three children who were enrolled in the last school year did not go back to school this year.
“We need the support of the international community to help provide security so that schools can be rebuilt and children can safely return to them,” Farrow said.
During a meeting with Central African Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, Farrow stressed the importance of security, education and the urgent need for access to basic services so that families can rebuild their lives and children can hope for a brighter future.
Across the country, UNICEF has provided over 43,000 students with school supplies and set up temporary learning spaces for 24,000 children since the beginning of the year. UNICEF is also improving health services, including by distributing insecticide-treated mosquito nets, providing safe drinking water, offering HIV counselling to pregnant women and vaccinating children against polio and measles. Since January, more than 10,000 children under the age of five received treatment for severe malnutrition.
After over two years of violence, growing needs and limited funding, more support is urgently needed to save children’s lives.