21 November 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: Children Caught in the Frontlines in DRC, Unicef Steps Up Support

Photo: Melanie Gouby/RNW
Displaced (file photo): Humanitarian agencies have been overwhelmed following a massive displacement triggered by the fighting.

Goma / New York — As clashes between M23 movement and the Congolese Army continue in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, children are caught on the frontlines. UNICEF is on the ground working to deliver urgent supplies to children and their families.

The recent clashes have uprooted at least 100,000 people. More than half of them are children under 18 years.

So far UNICEF has delivered high energy biscuits to cover the essential nutrition needs of 5,800 highly vulnerable displaced children. Once the security situation improves UNICEF and partners are ready to deliver basic services to 60,000 people - such as blankets, jerry cans, water and sanitation items and temporary schooling for displaced children.

Overcrowding in the area and the rainy season have increased the threat of diarrheal diseases and cholera. Already four cases of cholera have been reported at the Don Bosco site in Goma where 8,000 people have sought refuge.

UNICEF and partners have increased the number of chlorination points to 58 in the Lake Kivu area to improve water treatment in areas where many displaced have settled. Safe drinking water is being delivered by truck to sites that experienced a mass influx of new internally displaced people.

UNICEF is extremely concerned by the escalating violence. Children risk death and injury and are being exposed to unexploded ordnances that pose an additional threat to their safety.

"Humanitarian workers on the ground like UNICEF and other local partners are working hard under extremely difficult circumstances," said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. "We can do more if we get better access to those who have been forced to flee."

"We urge all parties to the conflict to respect international law so that humanitarian agencies can reach those affected by this conflict."

It is estimated that over 1,000 children have been separated from their families during the chaos that followed the clashes. Five hundred children are already benefiting from temporary care in Don Bosco where UNICEF has been providing food, clean water and medical care since the beginning.

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