|Boys stand behind barbed wire that forms a protective barrier around the perimeter of a camp for some 9,000 displaced people in the town of Bunia in the eastern region of Ituri, DR Congo.|
By Kun Li
NEW YORK, 27 December 2005 – Renewed fighting between Government forces supported by UN peacekeeping troops and opposition militias has displaced at least 10,000 people in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in recent weeks. These clashes come as the country strives to recover after a long civil conflict.
“DR Congo is moving towards elections next year, and there is an agreement amongst many of the opposing factions to cooperate. However, there are some militias in the east of the country that are not part of this agreement and are still contesting for power,” explained UNICEF Country Representative in DR Congo Anthony Bloomberg.
Since fighting erupted in November, thousands of people have fled their homes in the province of Katanga. In response to the emergency, UNICEF is providing items like plastic sheeting, blankets, cooking utensils, and jerry cans to displaced populations in three different relief camps. High nutritional biscuits are also being provided for children and adults alike.
|A large crowd gathers in front of rows of tents in a camp for some 9,000 displaced people in the town of Bunia in the eastern region of Ituri, DR Congo.|
UNICEF’s partner on the ground, Médicins Sans Frontières’ (MSF), estimates that between 300 and 400 newly displaced people arrive in the camps every day, most of them women and children. “Fighting is ongoing, even now as we speak, and it is too early to know exactly what the humanitarian consequences are going to be. But in any of these cases, UNICEF has a contingency plan and stocks in place so that we are able to respond to these situations as soon as possible,” added Mr. Bloomberg.
Conflict kills 1,000 everyday
Years of conflict has not only left millions dead, but has largely destroyed the country’s education and health infrastructure. In DR Congo, one in five children die before their fifth birthday, and one in three are malnourished. The country also has a very high maternal mortality rate.
“If you add on top of that the effects of displacement, then you can begin to imagine the extra burden this puts in terms of child health, child malnutrition, and child protection – as militias continue to recruit children into their armed forces,” remarked Mr. Bloomberg.
Working with partners to meet the needs of displaced children and their families, UNICEF is also calling for more humanitarian aid to DR Congo.
“Congo is an accumulation of very difficult humanitarian circumstances. We estimate that every day 1,000 people are dying due to continued conflict, and a very large proportion of these are children,” said Mr. Bloomberg. “More attention and assistance should go to DR Congo, and it should be higher on the international agenda.”