Pope: Appeal for Central African Republic

              2013-03-27 Vatican Radio  “I am closely following what is currently happening in the Central African Republic and wish to assure my prayers for all those who are suffering, especially the relatives of the victims, the wounded and those who have lost their homes and have been forced to flee . I call for an immediate halt to the violence and looting, and a political solution to the crisis to be found as soon as possible that would restore peace and harmony to that dear country for too long marked by conflict and division”. The security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic continues to be extremely precarious in the wake of a weekend coup. There have been reports of widespread looting in the capital city of the Central African Republic, Bangui. Aid groups and rights monitors  say that thieves and looters have even targeted hospitals. The offices of the United Nations’ Children’s Fund UNICEF in Kaga Bandoro were completely looted. The spokesman for the– UNICEF – Marixie Mercado says her agency has also received credible reports that rebel groups and pro- government militia have been recruiting children into their ranks. “Most vulnerable are children who have lost their home, have been separated from their families, or were formerly associated with armed groups,” she said. “Even before the current crisis,” continued Mercado, “UNICEF estimated that some 2,500 children both girls and boys, were associated with armed groups in the Central African Republic.” Mercado also reports that lack of access in recent   months has been a serious obstacle to humanitarian efforts. Roads are blocked, there is presence of armed groups and the risk of pillage. UNICEF says nearly 14,000 children are expected to suffer from life threatening malnutrition following the looting and closure of nutritional centers.