From hope to horror: violence's grip tightens on DRC's children
This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF’s Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Grant Leaity – to whom quoted text may be attributed - at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva
Geneva, 8 September 2023 – “Violence against children in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has reached unprecedented levels. There are few worse places, if any, to be a child. The country has the world’s highest number of UN-verified grave violations against children in armed conflict.
"Over the past year, this upsurge in violence and conflict in the east has resulted in the worst displacement crisis in Africa, and one of the worst globally. More than 2.8 million children are bearing the brunt the of the crisis in the east. I am here today to, I hope, sound the alarm.
"On a daily basis, children are being raped and killed. They are being abducted, recruited and used by armed groups – and we know the reports we have are only the tip of the iceberg.
"Recently, I visited a centre in North Kivu for children released from armed groups where I met one-year-old twins. They were found abandoned in their village, desperately malnourished…AND attached to an explosive belt. The expanding use of improvised explosive devices is just one of several recent, depraved trends.
"In the first three months of 2023, in North Kivu alone, more than 38,000 cases of sexual- and gender-based violence were reported. That’s a 37 per cent increase compared to the same time period in 20221. Said another way: in just one year there have been 10,000 additional reports of sexual- and gender-based violence. Those are the ones reported. And in North Kivu alone.
"As well as unprecedented levels of violence, the lives of children in eastern Congo are threatened by epidemics and malnutrition. Around 1.2 million children under five in the east are facing the risk of acute malnutrition.
"Epidemic outbreaks are growing with DRC experiencing its worst cholera outbreak in more than five years and measles on the rise, with over 780,000 cases as of August.
"As the world looks away, we are failing the children of DRC.
"There is hope but we need your help on two things.
"Firstly, UNICEF has the solutions to respond to all the humanitarian needs of children provided we have the resources to do so.
"We have this year helped more than 30,000 children and their families get mental health counselling and more than 500 children who have been released from armed groups as they readjust to everyday life. We’ve supported in-patient care to thousands of malnourished children. And we’ve helped more than 800,000 people get enough clean water for drinking and domestic needs. But it remains palliative care.
"To scale up our humanitarian response in eastern DRC UNICEF requires $400 million. However our appeal has only received 1 per cent additional funding since the emergency scale-up was announced in June this year and we desperately require additional funding.
"The second thing we need is the political will to bring this conflict to an end. We call upon the government of DRC, African nations and the international community to work together to find a peaceful solution to this crisis – a solution that would allow millions of displaced families in eastern DRC to return to their homes."