Two boys in need of a home, two parents mourning lost children

Two children who walked into a village in the north-west of the Central African Republic earlier this year, after a long trek through forest and savannah, are symbolic of a growing problem: after years of civil war, thousands of children in the country have been orphaned. Could recruiting large numbers of foster parents be the answer?

Late one morning at the height of the dry season, Henriette Idjara was heading home to her village when she spotted two boys slumped by a parched riverbed. Clothes torn, caked in dust, the teenagers were in dire need.

Henriette couldn’t turn away. As a mother who had lost five of her own children, the 53-year-old felt a strong maternal instinct telling her to help.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

The brothers, Guy and Nelson, told her that rebel soldiers had raided their village and executed their father in cold blood, several months earlier. Their mother had left long ago. Living in fear of further attacks and unable to make ends meet, the boys eventually decided to leave, setting off on foot to find work. By the time Henriette found them, a week later, they had walked about 150 miles.

“They were trying to get to a gold mine,” says Henriette. “I told…

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