The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), on Friday, warned about the dire situation of some three million displaced children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), facing brutal militia violence and extreme hunger.
Whole villages have been set ablaze, health centres and schools ransacked, and entire families – including children – hacked to death, in a series of merciless attacks in eastern DRC by fighters using machetes and heavy weapons, UNICEF said. Communities have been forced to flee with only the barest of possessions.
“Displaced children know nothing but fear, poverty, and violence. Generation after generation can think only of survival”, Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Representative for the DRC, said. “Yet the world seems increasingly indifferent to their fate. We need the resources to continue helping these children have a better future.”
There are about 5.2 million displaced people in the DRC – about half of whom were displaced in the last twelve months, according to UN data. The overall figure includes about three million children.
Families forced from their homes and villages are compelled to live in crowded settlements lacking safe water, health care and other basic services. Others are taken in by impoverished local communities. In the most violence-afflicted provinces of Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu and Tanganyika, more than 8 million people are acutely food insecure.
The report recounted testimony of children who have been recruited as militia fighters, subjected to sexual assault, and suffered other grave violations of their rights – abuses that registered a 16 percent increase in the first six months of 2020 compared to the previous year.
However, delivering relief assistance to populations who have been displaced is complex, and often hampered by insecurity and weak transport infrastructure.
A rapid response programme directed by UNICEF with partner NGOs offers a temporary solution, providing tarpaulins, cooking utensils, jerrycans and other essentials to nearly 500,000 people in 2020, said the UN agency.
According to Typhaine Gendron, the Chief of Emergency for UNICEF in DRC, such emergency distributions help deal with the “immediate shock” of being displaced. They are also part of an integrated response that looks to address a family’s broader needs in health, nutrition, protection, water and sanitation (WASH), or education, she added.