The deteriorating security situation in the Central African Republic underlines just how important is this newspaper's appeal for Unicef's programme to save child soldiers. The 64 rescued since our appeal was launched were moved to safety as rebel troops halted their advance just 45 miles from the capital, Bangui.
The UN has evacuated 200 "non-essential" staff and expatriate family members, and the US has also urged its nationals to leave. But aid workers from Unicef have remained to protect and care for the children whose release was negotiated as part of the scheme to which Independent readers have been contributing so generously. They are among the most traumatised children anywhere in the world.
The boys were forced to become combatants and the girls to become sex slaves in marauding armed groups which have brutalising punishment rituals to terrorise them into compliance. Since their rescue, they have begun the protracted processes of physical demobilisation and psychological rehabilitation which will see them back at school and given vocational training. Eventually, they will be reunited with their families or resettled with foster carers. That work continues in the new place of refuge to which the children have been moved.
Rebel commanders have now begun the uncertain business of negotiating with the CAR's President, François Bozizé, who has appealed, without much hope, to the US and France for help to block the rebels' advance. The political and military situation remains volatile. But the needs of the rescued child soldiers – which Unicef must fund entirely from voluntary donations – are undiminished. Fortunately, so is the resolve of the Unicef workers on the ground. With the continued assistance of our readers, that vital work can go on. We are confident that you will not abandon these children in their hour of need.
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