THE BLOG

The World's Forgotten Crisis

24/03/2014 17:29 GMT | Updated 24/05/2014 10:59 BST

A new War Child report, released this week, marks exactly a year since a coup sent the Central African Republic (CAR), a country mired in protracted emergency, spiralling into even deeper crisis. We are also two weeks away from the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide - a tragedy which robust peacekeeping could have prevented. If you think this could never happen again, have a look at CAR, where children as young as three years old have been raped and left with horrific injuries. Other children have been killed, maimed and even beheaded.

An 18-year-old girl told War Child how she suffered the terrible ordeal of being gang raped herself after witnessing her own mother's rape. Children in War Child centres in Bangui, CAR's capital, are presenting with some of the worst stories we have seen in any conflict zone. A young boy called Yannick described to us how his sister was shot through the stomach as they went together to the market. She died a few minutes later. When he ran home in confusion he found that his house had been destroyed and his father killed. His mother had disappeared. In Bangui it takes just an hour for a child's family to unravel.

The fact that Muslims and Christians have started attacking each other in CAR might seem to offer an easy explanation for the root causes of this violence. But in reality this is a relatively new aspect of the dire situation in this country which has been in continuous crisis for over a decade, with very little progress towards development. In Bangui today life expectancy is just under 50 years old, no better than in it was 1980.

The tragedy for CAR's children is that this is a country which has been easy to ignore. Typically, UN appeals for emergency aid to the Central African Republic have met with indifference from the international community. In 2010 and 2011 donors provided less than half of the basic resources the UN were requesting, even though the country was already on its knees.

New thinking at the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) has put UKaid in a leading position for emergency aid to CAR. DFID has announced £12 million of humanitarian funding to CAR in 2014 so far - more than double the £5 million provided last year. This feels like the right thing to do for a donor that declared in a major 2011 policy statement: "The UK will ensure that its humanitarian aid is delivered on the basis of need alone .... We will maintain a principled, non-politicised approach to humanitarian aid." But the UK has not always lived up to this principled position on aid. In 2011 and again in 2012 DFID allocated no direct humanitarian funding to the Central African Republic, even though the country ranked extremely high amongst those in need, on a par with Yemen and Somalia.

Not that all of us in the NGO sector have done much better. In the past, when big donor funds were so hard to come by in CAR, very few of the world's major international NGOs were prepared to spend their own money there.

We need to avoid the mistakes which have haunted the world for two decades by sending in sufficient peacekeeping forces to separate fighters from civilians, and break the cycle of violence before the horrors of Rwanda are repeated in full in the Central African Republic. And we need to back this up with enough funding to get families back to their houses, and children back to school, with assistance to help them recover from some of the most horrific events witnessed by any children anywhere. There is still an 80% funding gap for the relief efforts in Central African Republic this year. This needs to close without further delay.