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Thousands Fall Victim To Sexual Violence In CAR

Thousands fall victim to sexual violence in Central African Republic - UN

22 February 2008 - Over 15 per cent of women and girls in the violence-ridden north of the Central African Republic (CAR) are victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

Reports coming in on a weekly basis describe such incidents as two 12-year-old girls being raped while searching for firewood in the bush and a 13-year-old girl assaulted on her way to sell palm oil at a market.

"Sexual violence is a disturbingly common feature of the insecurity in the north of the Central African Republic," said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes. "We must ensure that those responsible are brought to justice."

Over 1,000 rape survivors among 20,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region have received medical and psychological care, including HIV testing and counselling, in the past six months from aid groups.

"There is a dire need to expand the programmes that support the survivors of sexual violence and help communities to prevent it in the future," noted Toby Lanzer, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country.

This year's joint aid programme between the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the CAR - for which there has been an appeal for over $90 million - will include seven projects to assist those who have endured sexual violence.

Earlier this month, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that some 6,000 to 7,000 Central Africans have fled their homeland for southern Chad since late January because of the increasing risk of bandit attacks in their home country.

Mostly women and children, the refugees are in poor condition, arriving with no possessions and relying on the generosity of locals, the agency said. There are now an estimated 50,000 Central African refugees living in Chad.

Both Chad and the CAR have been plagued by violence, instability and impoverishment and last year the Security Council authorized the establishment of a multi-dimensional UN presence - including a peacekeeping mission known as MINURCAT - to try to remedy the situation.

ENDS

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