BANGUI, Central African Republic — The actress, activist, and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow just concluded her fourth visit to the Central African Republic, where she spoke in Bangui about how she witnessed the fallout from extreme violence and talked with people who offered inspiring stories of courage.
Ongoing violence has already displaced around 535,00 people within the Central African Republic. Almost 400,000 people fled to nearby countries like Chad, Cameroon and the Congo.
“She said she had nothing,” Farrow said about one women affected by the conflict. “She hadn’t only lost her clothes, her house, her cooking pots and everything else that she had assembled to conduct her life. She said she had nothing left, literally.”
Children are critically impacted by the violence ravaging the state. Displacement, separation, abduction, maiming, murder, rape and recruitment into armed groups have affected more than 2.3 million children.
The humanitarian and security crisis has also seen the breakdown of basic health, social and educational services. One-third of children enrolled in school last year did not return this year, while many are plagued by disease and malnutrition.
While in the country, Mia Farrow went to the southern town of Boda and met with displaced Muslim families who live in constant fear of attacks. The Muslim population lives in an enclave closed off by red tape, with hostile armed groups surrounding them. The red tape prevents Muslim health workers from continuing to work at the main hospital so they instead volunteer at the UNICEF-supported health clinic that was constructed to serve the enclave. Meanwhile, around 400 children are educated in three classrooms at the only functioning school in town, where parents volunteer because most teachers ran away in search of safer areas.
At the clinic, Farrow met many with tragic stories.
In particular, one mother described how her father and husband both abandoned her to raise four children alone. One of the children is now severely malnourished.
“You’re looking into the eyes of another human being, and you know she’s not alone,” Farrow said. “She was speaking for the thousands of people [who]have lost everything in this crisis. You just think, what would that be like, if I lost literally everything?”
The violence in the Central African Republic has surpassed two years, and while the critical needs of the population continue to grow, funding is steadily shrinking. Due to this, UNICEF asked for $81 million to support desperately-needed hygiene, health, education and child protection projects
UNICEF already helped to improve health services by distributing mosquito nets and vaccinating children against polio and measles.
Farrow declared her strong belief in supporting frontline organizations that have the capacity and infrastructure to save lives and have already been saving lives.
“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. “The courage and resilience of defenseless people facing shocking and unacceptable levels of violence is unforgettable and profoundly inspiring.”
– Annie Jung
Sources: UNICEF, UNICEF Blog, All Africa
Photo: Kate Holt