This case study describes the role of community-based child protection groups in protecting children in conflict-affected Central African Republic.
The outbreak of a violent conflict in Central African Republic (CAR) led to mass displacement in December 2013, leaving 2.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance – half of them children. Since 2014, Plan International supports the education and protection needs of children affected by armed conflict, including girls and boys associated with armed forces and groups (CAAFAG): for example as fighters, cooks, sex slaves, or spies. Plan International provides a comprehensive integrated child protection, psychosocial and education programme in the provinces of Mambere-Kadei, Ouham and Lobaye. The programme’s aim is to prevent child recruitment and support the reintegration of former child solders, unaccompanied and separated children and other vulnerable children into the community.
In a context where formal services and government presence are limited, Plan International CAR uses a community-based child protection strategy to prevent and respond to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of girls and boys. At the same time, Plan works to strengthen the statutory government services to respond to the needs of specific groups of at-risk children such as former child solders, unaccompanied minors and survivors of violence and abuse.
Achievements include the gradual capacity and ownership of communities in the identification, prevention and responding to child protection issues such as neglect, violence, family separation and child recruitment into armed groups. While community mobilisation has been successful, inadequate human and financial resources as well as weak structures in the local government posed a key challenge to the sustainability of the humanitarian assistance provided by Plan International in CAR. Key lesson learnt is the importance of intensive mentoring and support to community-based structures, especially in the first phase of the programme, as well as providing technical and operational support to both local and national Government structures to support community-based groups and respond to identified cases. Continued engagement with formal child protection services is also required to ensure the sustainability community-based protection work.