DRC: UNICEF scales up emergency response as children suffer from resumed fighting in North Kivu
Goma, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, 18 September, 2008 - Increased fighting over the last two and a half weeks is causing more suffering to children in North Kivu province. Clashes between different armed groups have forced over 100,000 people to flee their homes, social services to close, and humanitarian organizations to suspend assistance.
“This fighting is again having a brutal impact on the children and women of the Kivus” commented Julien Harneis, UNICEF Eastern DRC’s Chief of Field Operations. “Many children are split up from their families as they flee; in displacement they are even more vulnerable to malaria, measles, cholera, and malnutrition. Over the last year we were able to bring down rates of malnutrition below emergency levels but this renewed fighting puts that all into question.”
Around 1,000 children have been separated from their families with many being exploited and abused; water springs have been sabotaged cutting off clean water to thousands of civilians; communicable diseases, cholera and measles, are at risk of spreading; malnourishment is again in danger of rising past emergency levels; access to school is limited to even more children; and, the farming season is stunted, reducing children’s survival and healthy development prospects into the future.
In response, UNICEF is scaling up its existing emergency programs. With partner Save the Children around 500 separated children have been identified and had their family tracings launched to reunify them. Partner Mercy Corps is trucking clean water to over 60,000 people on the Goma-Rutshuru road and Oxfam Quebec is reinstalling chlorination points in Kirotshe to meet the needs of 35,000 people. Emergency measles vaccinations for up to 100,000 children are being prepared with the government and needs assessments in nutrition, essential household items and emergency shelter, and education sectors are being coordinated to ensure all new assistance needs are met.
Children continue to be abused, exploited, and to die from easily preventable diseases from the ongoing instability in North Kivu. UNICEF calls on all armed groups and actors to respect children’s rights and ensure that they have access to the protection of their family, their community, clean water, health care, and education.