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Conflict in CAR Affects Almost 2 Million

From VOA Learning English, we bring you health news in Special English. UNICEF says the recent conflict in the Central African Republic has affected 1.8 million people. The United Nations Children's Fund says children make up half of the 800,000 people in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

Rebel groups rose up against President Francois Bozize in December. The Seleka rebel coalition signed a peace deal with the president in January. A UNICEF spokeswoman says some of the hardest-hit towns remain under rebel control. She says major risks for children include sexual violence and being recruited into armed groups.

UNICEF says eight percent of young children in the Central African Republic suffer from moderate acute malnutrition. Two percent suffer from severe cases of hunger. Yet, basic services are hard to find. The agency says that in areas affected by conflict, fewer than half of the children attend school. UNICEF says the rebels and pro-government militias are recruiting children as soldiers. The group says it aims to bring aid to more communities to help families displaced by the crisis in Central African Republic.

Globally, UNICEF is appealing for $1.4 billion this year to meet the urgent needs of tens of millions of children in 45 countries and regions. The children are threatened by conflict, natural disasters and other emergencies. In two areas of increasing conflict, the situation is especially threatening for children.

In Syria, about 2.5 million people need assistance, and UNICEF says more than half of them are children. And a UNICEF official says that in Mali, children in the north are displaced, out of school, and at risk of being drawn into armed groups.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Laurel Bowman.(Adapted from a radio program broadcast 06Feb2013)