Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Date: 23 Oct 2003
Street children’s centre inaugurated BANGUI, 23 October (IRIN) - A centre for abandoned and street children, built with financial support from France, was inaugurated on Wednesday in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic.
"This centre will significantly contribute to the care of children who were victimised by political, economic and social turmoil," Jean Pierre Destouesse, the French Ambassador, said during the inauguration. France contributed 66 million francs CFA (US $122,308) that was used to build the centre, which cost a total of 86 million francs CFA ($159,371).
French-based charities Secours Catholique and Auteuil International as well as a local NGO, Voix du Coeur, also contributed funds for the construction of the centre managed by Voix du Coeur. The minister in charge of water and forestry, Maurice Yondo, presided over the centre’s inauguration. The UN Secretary-General’s representative, Lamine Cisse, also attended the ceremony.
The chairwoman of Voix du Coeur, Beatrice Epaye, told IRIN that the centre had the capacity to shelter 60 children. She said the NGO would provide three cooked meals daily for the children. She added that the centre was open to all street children, especially those seeking medical care, which would be offered free of charge. She said the UN Children’s Fund and the Order of Malta had donated drugs, and the UN World Food Programme had donated some of the food. She said the centre, with a three-bed hospitalisation room, had two volunteer doctors and a permanent nurse.
Due to repeated crises that the country had undergone since mid-1990s and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the number of street children in Bangui had increased significantly. Epaye said 43 percent of the city’s 700,000 children were aged under 15 years, 1,800 of whom were street children.
Voix du Coeur was founded in January 1994 to care for street children aged four years to 18 years. Apart from feeding, sheltering and offering medical care for the children, the centre takes back to school those who had abandoned schooling or to vocational institutions for those beyond school-going age.
"After a 3-12 month stay at Voix du Coeur centre, children are taken to foster families," Epaye said. She added that the centre had organised the placement of 1,400 children in foster families between January 1994 and December 2002. The centre also served as a refuge to street children in times of war, she said.