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Help the children brutalised by war

As most of you spend today putting the final touches to your Christmas preparations, perhaps the last thing you want to do is contemplate the troubles of those living thousands of miles away in war-torn Africa.

But that is what we at The Independent are going to ask, as we make a further push to raise money for our campaign to help Unicef free child soldiers in the Central African Republic.

You have been extremely generous already, but I would urge you to dig deeper as the brave Unicef workers in that misused country face an extremely nervewracking Christmas. A big push by rebel militias forced them to evacuate their camp in the North of the country where I met them. They escaped in the nick of time, taking the children with them to the relative safety of the capital, Bangui.

Now they are sheltering in the city in relative safety, but the latest news from the country is not good. The rebels have advanced rapidly towards the capital and at the weekend seized another town, dashing Friday's hopes of peace talks. The latest crisis tragically serves further to highlight the brave, good work Unicef's people are doing in the country. At their Bangui base, they are showing these brutalised children that love, learning and play – those birthrights of all children – are still alive in the world, despite everything their experiences in battle may have taught them.

This work costs money, so please give generously. You can either donate directly to the numbers listed on page 20 or enjoy bidding for the wonderful lots we have in our charity auction. Buy an original Tracey Emin artwork, chow on a curry cooked just for you by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown or hang out with the sports reporters behind the scenes at Manchester City.

Treat yourself this Christmas. And help give the youngsters of the Central African Republic that most precious present of all – the gift of childhood.

Evgeny Lebedev is the owner of The Independent, i, and the London Evening Standard. Follow him on Twitter: @mrevgenylebedev