Child Poverty in the Central African Republic
Poverty is an issue the Central African Republic continues to face. In fact, around 71% of the Central African Republic’s population lives below the estimated international poverty line. In particular, child poverty in the Central African Republic is prevalent with an estimated half of the country’s population being under the age of 14. Many of these children are born into poverty, a situation they did not choose.

The Central African Republic is also one of the most impoverished nations in Africa; about 60% of the population lives in poverty. Some of the largest issues that children in the Central African Republic face are low enrollment for primary school, various armed conflicts and malnutrition. While these are big burdens, there are several solutions that should drastically improve the situation of child poverty in the Central African Republic.

Low Enrollment for School

In countries that poverty ravages, schools can be a safe haven for many children. Not only do they offer a stable and caring environment, but they can also offer a lifeline to many children with hopes and dreams of leaving their situation. There are schools in the Central African Republic, such as the Youth Education Pack, that specifically teach trades and other professions to help young people obtain skills during the COVID-19 pandemic. Youth Education Pack receives funding from Education Cannot Wait, a fund that is working towards providing education during crises.

The Central African Republic enrollment is incredibly low, with only 62% of boys and around 41% of girls enrolled in primary school. This creates a significant gap, with many children already deep into poverty not going to school to progress. One cause of this problem is the various armed groups in the country. One of these is the People’s Army for the Restoration of Democracy, which frequently kidnaps children and forces them to fight.

While some attend school, the problems continue. Around 6% of high schoolers in the Central African Republic complete school. One solution would be to dedicate more resources to education. Through schooling, many children in poverty in the Central African Republic would be able to both learn and grow, while progressing in their education and moving from their current living conditions. After school programs could be of great use and benefit as well, allowing children to have a safe space away from their home lives. Baha’i communities are an incredible example, where they have found multiple ways to prioritize and bring education to children who need it. There is a definitive aspiration by many to boost education in the Central African Republic and more success stories such as the one in Baha’i are inevitable.

Armed Conflict

Unfortunately, warring groups often recruit or kidnap many children of the Central African Republic to fight as soldiers. While many generally consider the use of children in warfare abhorrent, children are often incredibly susceptible to this. They are much easier to manipulate through coercion and threats of violence to themselves and their families. These children often become physically and mentally scarred by what they have seen and done.

An effective solution is to create more programs to help reintegrate former child soldiers. As stated before, many of these children need psychological help. By being able to discuss their trauma with professionals, they are able to process what happened to them and recover from the lasting effects. Other programs must emerge to make sure children do not even join said groups in the first place, educating them on what happens when they become child soldiers.

There are efforts already on the ground to help reduce child poverty in the Central African Republic. For example, War Child has been successful in helping former child soldiers of the Central African Republic, aiding around 7,947 children in 2018 alone. Another such organization is UNICEF, which has been reintegrating child soldiers for nearly 13 years after signing an agreement with the government as well as a rebel group known as Assembly of the Union of Democratic Forces. While there is a great deal that needs to happen, there is hope for the children of the Central African Republic who the armed conflicts of the region personally affect.

Malnutrition

 A significant problem amongst impoverished children in the Central African Republic is malnutrition. It is almost a residual effect of poverty itself and of the other problems that children face in the Central African Republic, mentioned above.

Around 38% of children in the Central African Republic are chronically malnourished and in need of serious care. This is parallel to the armed conflicts as well as the considerable rise in both food prices as well as shortages. In fact, around 45% of people in the country suffer from some level of food insecurity. These problems create a cycle where a lack of food resources for farming creates poverty and poverty itself creates more food shortages.

Luckily, many organizations, like the World Food Programme (WFP), are helping combat child malnutrition in the Central African Republic. WFP began the Central African Republic Interim Country Strategic Plan in 2018, a plan which aspires to help many children and at-risk families receive food daily. This can and will tremendously help combat the issue at hand and ensure that many children do not go hungry.

WFP’s efforts extend towards schools with its school feeding programs as well. These programs have both had positive effects on school attendance as well as the nutrition of many children. Malnutrition might be a definitive problem facing the Central African Republic, but much effort is going into making sure children receive the proper nutrients daily.

While the impoverished children in the Central African Republic seem to be in an incredibly tough spot physically, mentally and emotionally, there is a future for them. Many organizations have dedicated themselves to helping them. Moreover, the granting of awareness about child poverty in the Central African Republic should help prompt others into swift action.

Remy Desai-Patel
Photo: Flickr