U.N. says 11 million people displaced in Central and East Africa

Armed conflict and natural disasters in Central and East Africa continue to drive an increasing number of persons from their homes, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported Monday.

The combined number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in 16 countries in the area exceeds 11 million, up from 10.9 million in December 2008, according to data compiled by OCHA’s regional office.

The report comes amid a year-long, worldwide campaign by the UN’s humanitarian wing to raise global awareness of what it calls a widespread “displacement crisis.”
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Video: JRS – West Africa

Fr. Nzanzu Kapitula, S.J., Regional Director of JRS West Africa, discusses what it means to be a part of JRS, and how JRS fulfills it’s mission to serve, accompany and advocate for the people of West Africa, a vast region encompassing Sierra Leone, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Liberia and the Republic of Central Africa.

Becoming a child soldier

by Joseph Mangbi

In 1983, when the second civil war started in his country of Sudan, Joseph was only 11 years old. That year the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was established; they began broadcasting on the radio, a very powerful war propaganda tool.

At the time, Joseph was far too young to be able to understand what was going on; but many people and events would subsequently convince him of the necessity for war.

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Safer Schools in Chad

Safer schools needed to prevent children from joining armed activities in Chad

Education is key to a stable future

“Last July, my young son was enlisted in an armed group during a recruitment campaign near his school. Despite my repeated attempts to intervene, he was covertly sent into military training,” a Chadian man recently told JRS.

On Red Hand Day, 12 February, JRS West Africa calls upon the government, with the support of local and international communities, to increase efforts to prevent the use of children in armed groups through the creation of safer schools.

Minors have become involved in inter-ethnic fighting, internal rebellions, and the Darfur conflict. In May 2007, the government and UNICEF signed an agreement to release all children in its ranks. Approximately 600 children, out of as many as 10,000 have been withdrawn. JRS staff working in the country’s east report that children are still re-recruited and seen in uniform, sometimes near schools.

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