DR Congo - Country in crisis

Dramatic increase in children dying

© UNICEF DR Congo/2005
A wounded child carries a baby at Tche camp in eastern DRC.

NEW YORK, 10 March 2005 - Vital aid is being restored to eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo after agencies were forced to withdraw last week because of renewed fighting. They say there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people leaving their homes to escape the violence and a rise in the number of children dying every day.

UNICEF’s head of operations in eastern DRC, Massimo Nicoletti Altimari, says the situation is close to catastrophic.

“We found a drastic increase in the number of internally displaced people compared to the numbers before the suspension of activities last week,” he says. “And unfortunately Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) have reported a dramatic increase in the mortality rate - between four and seven deaths every day in every camp. The majority of these are children.”

© UNICEF DR Congo/2005
Some 21,000 people are living in Tche camp in eastern DRC. Many more have been displaced by the fighting.

The main cause of death is malaria and diarrhoea, exacerbated by a lack of medical treatment. The poor quality of water and hygiene in the camps is a main concern and epidemics could erupt if conditions don’t improve.

“Obviously there’s a real need to intervene quite fast with non-food items, water and sanitation, medical supplies and where possible, teaching and learning materials to open the schools,” says Mr. Altimari.

Since 1998, DR Congo has been overwhelmed by ethnic strife and civil war. Although a peace agreement was signed in 2003, fighting soon broke out again in Ituri Province, in the eastern part of the country. It is one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

At least 88,000 people have been registered in camps but there are many more people displaced by the fighting. UNICEF is also concerned about the protection of women and children who are being subjected to sexual violence. It is estimated that up to five million people have died in DRC since 1998.




9 March 2005:
UNICEF’s Massimo Nicoletti Altimari describes deteriorating conditions in DRC.
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