|A child who has taken refuge in Kafe, eastern DR Congo, after being forced to flee his village because of militia violence|
NEW YORK, 14 February 2005 – The number of people seeking protection from an upsurge in violence in the eastern district of Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo, has risen dramatically in the past week.
The latest estimates indicate that 50,000 people have made it to the safety of four camps in Ituri, and that upwards of 35,000 more people have fled their homes but have not yet reached the camps.
Outside the protection of the camps, there is widespread terror.
“There is no security beyond these few sites protected by UN troops,” said UNICEF Education Officer Katya Marino. “There are armed men, there is a sense of terror, and it is very difficult for us to reach the people who need our help.”
UNICEF has begun distributing basic household supplies to 16,000 families in the camps, and will soon begin vaccinating children against measles and getting them back to school.
The current violence in eastern Congo is part of one of the bloodiest conflicts the world has seen since World War Two. Nearly 4 million people are reported to have died in the last six years, the vast majority of them civilians and children.
There are concerns that the latest violence could damage recent moves towards peace, which it was hoped would lead to elections in June.
“Renewed attacks against the civilian population put the process at risk and are a disaster for Congolese children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy.