After six months apart, Max and Brad are reunited with their family
In the Central African Republic, 2.5 million people, including 900,000 children, need protection. Among them are Brad (13) and Max (15)* who live in Mbaïki, a town 100 km south of the capital Bangui. In January 2021, the two boys got separated from their family when fleeing clashes between armed groups and the Central African Armed Forces. "My brother and I followed a group of people we didn't know. We walked in the bush for two days and ended up in some village. That's when some good people picked us up and accompanied us to Bangui," Max explained.
One drama among many
The conflict in the Central African Republic has displaced more than one in four Central Africans. Since January, following an outbreak of violence, the country has seen the highest level of displacement since 2014. Currently, 691,000 people are internally displaced, while another 699,000 have found refuge in neighbouring countries.
It was through awareness-raising activities organized by the Community Networks for Child Protection (RECOPE) in the 3rd arrondissement of Bangui that the local authorities handed Brad and Max over to the NGO Plan International to take care of the two minors. The RECOPEs are mainly made up of community leaders and address issues such as education, reproductive health and gender-based violence. "After listening to Brad and Max, we provided them with the assistance they needed, including psychosocial support, and placed them in temporary foster care in Bangui," explains Amos Namzoka, Case Manager at Plan International. While Brad and Max stayed with the host family, the NGO launched a search in partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs to find the children's biological family.
During the three-month search, the local agents of the Ministry of Social Affairs were able to find where the children's family lives, on the basis of information and indications provided by the children. Subsequently, they were able to obtain the parents' telephone number, which they passed on to Plan International. The parents were then contacted and a meeting arranged before the actual reunification. "During this meeting, we make sure that the parents are ready to receive their children at short notice, because in some cases, it requires long-term psychological work with the family," explains Justin Kaseke, Child Protection Officer at Plan International. Following discussions with the family, everything was finally ready for the reunion. Smiling ear to ear, Brad and Max could not wait any longer and on 2nd August, accompanied by the NGO, they met their parents in Mbaïki in their family home. This happy event was accompanied by tears and laughter. "Imagine a father who thought his children were dead, and one day someone comes to tell him that they are alive and that they are going to bring them back to you," testified Maka Jasmin, the father of the two boys, tears in his voice. "I am so grateful for the work Plan International did for reuniting us with our children," concluded Jasmin.
Maintaining a protective environment
As part of its project Protective environment for child, adolescent and young adult survivors of different forms of violence in Bangui, financed by the Humanitarian Fund for CAR, Plan International has reunited 25 separated children with their families, including the two boys from Mbaïki. Family tracing is ongoing for another five children, all of which have been separated from their families due to the conflict. The project also enabled to set up five community-based child protection mechanisms to take care of 100 victims of gender-based violence (GBV), to support 90 GBV survivors in income-generating activities, to issue 180 birth certificates to children and to enrol more than 8,600 children in psychosocial support activities.
*Names have been changed to protect the children’s identity.