The Central African Republic, CAR, is on the brink of “a massive humanitarian catastrophe,” the Red Cross warned on Friday.
Violence between Muslims and Christians, which broke out after a coup in March, has killed hundreds of people and displaced one million in the diamond and gold rich nation.
In spite of the ongoing conflict, Muslim Seleka fighters released 23 children from their forces into the care of the UN children’s fund.
Among the child soldiers, aged between 14 and 17 years, are six girls, UNICEF said on Friday, adding that many more have been identified for release in the coming days.
The relentless sectarian violence of the past months has “put children at much higher risk of recruitment,” said UNICEF CAR representative Souleymane Diabete.
There are about 6,000 child soldiers in CAR, a small nation of 4.4 million people, the UN estimates, while about half of the population needs humanitarian aid due to the 10-month conflict.
Hospitals have now ran out of drugs, food supply is scarce and the displaced lack access to shelter and proper sanitation, Red Cross president in CAR, Antoine Mbao Bogo, said in a statement.
“All signs are showing that the country is on the edge of a massive humanitarian catastrophe,” said Mbao Bogo, calling the conflict “a silent disaster” that has not received sufficient international attention and support.
While the humanitarian situation in the capital, Bangui, is “very difficult,” according to Mbao Bogo, “in the countryside it is becoming unbearable.”
He also warned that the conflict is destroying CAR’s fragile economy and agricultural sector, making the recovery difficult.
Meanwhile, CAR’s provisional parliament is in the process of electing a new leadership, after transitional president Michel Djotodia stepped down last Friday for failing to stop the violence.
The country has been experiencing a humanitarian crisis since Djotodia’s Seleka coalition rose up against the government in December 2012 and overthrew President Francois Bozize, a Christian, in March.
The nation is currently secured by 3,500 AU peacekeepers and 1,600 French troops.