Several thousands of women and young girls have endured rape and other sexual violence in the conflict-torn north of the Central African Republic (CAR).
Research suggests that sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) strikes well over 15 percent of women and girls in the region.
Rape cases are being reported in northern CAR on a weekly basis. The most recent reports mention two twelve-year old girls, who were raped while searching for firewood in the bush near their shelter. A local newspaper also described the ordeal of a thirteen-year old girl assaulted earlier this month on her way to sell palm oil at a market. Health workers in the western province of Nana-Mambéré have expressed shock at the increasing number of rapes of women and girls.
“Sexual violence is a disturbingly common feature of the insecurity in the north of the Central African Republic,” said John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. “We must ensure that those responsible are brought to justice,” he added.
Aid groups in the country are providing rape victims with medical and psychological care, including HIV testing and counselling. Among 20,000 displaced persons in the north of the country, more than 1,000 rape survivors have been assisted in the last six months. Networks of victims of sexual abuse are being supported by providing small amounts of money for productive activities.
“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,” affirmed Toby Lanzer, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in the country. “The joint [non-governmental organisation] NGO - United Nations aid programme for 2008 includes seven projects extending services to survivors of sexual violence in crisis zones,” he added.
The 2008 action plan for CAR, as outlined in the Common Appeal Process (CAP), asks the international community to contribute $92.6 million in assistance funds. So far this year, some $7.4 million, or close to 8 percent of the amount required, has been received.