© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-1328/Holt

In Goma, a pregnant woman who was raped by soldiers attends a centre for survivors of sexual violence. In the eastern part of the country, girls are particularly vulnerable to abuse and violence at the hands of armed groups on all sides of the continuing conflict.

Critical Issues for Children and Women

The humanitarian community in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been simultaneously confronting displacement and acute humanitarian need in five main locations: Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, the Uélé districts and the area along the Angolan border where Congolese citizens have been forcibly expelled from Angola. It is estimated that, in total, there are more than 2 million displaced people in eastern Congo, of which over half are children. Malnutrition is currently a direct or indirect cause of 35 per cent of all deaths of children under five.  At present, in excess of 400,000 children of school age who are displaced do not attend school. A breakdown in the peace process, coupled with renewed hostilities in previous areas of conflict, has led to an increase in levels of sexual and gender-based violence against children and women; more than half of the rapes reported in eastern Congo between January and April 2009 were committed by armed forces and rebel groups against girls under 18.

Planned Humanitarian Action for 2010

Together with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, NGO partners, other United Nations agencies and the communities themselves, UNICEF will work to reduce the vulnerabilities of an estimated 1.8 million displaced, returnee and other disaster-affected people, including 990,000 children. UNICEF’s two flagship programmes in the country – the Rapid Response Mechanism and the Programme of Expanded Assistance for Returnees – will be deployed in three of the UNICEF-led clusters: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Education, and Non-food Items/Emergency Shelter.  The UNICEF-led Nutrition Cluster will provide similar national-level standby response capacity for nutritional surveys and immediate response.  These interventions will be complemented by large-scale emergency response within UNICEF’s other core areas of responsibility, including child protection, mine risk education and gender-based violence.  In a country as vast as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the primary challenge will be humanitarian access, especially in the eastern part where conflict continues to erupt. Following are the expected results of UNICEF’s emergency interventions:

Rapid Assistance Programmes: The Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) will continue to provide rapid multi-sectoral assessment information to the humanitarian community and emergency response in the form of non-food items/emergency shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene and education to over 1 million emergency-affected people. The Programme of Expanded Assistance for Returnees (PEAR), which provides a three-month package of essential household items and other forms of support, will expand in areas such as North Kivu where the influx of returnees is expected to increase. Elsewhere the programme will be phased out, for example, in the Ituri district where the return process is coming to an end. PEAR will also retain a link to the PEAR Plus recovery programme to target those areas already assessed and assisted by PEAR, and deliver a package of early recovery focusing on the rehabilitation of basic social services. 

Health and Nutrition: As Nutrition Cluster lead, UNICEF will play a vital role in strengthening basic health care provision for children and women in emergencies in a bid to reduce morbidity and mortality rates.  In response to the extremely high levels of malnutrition, UNICEF will not only provide therapeutic feeding supplies and support for community-based management of malnutrition, but will also coordinate surveillance and help partners provide an immediate response in areas with high levels of acute malnutrition.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): Sufficient safe water and other WASH facilities meeting Sphere standards will be provided for displaced people in the eastern provinces. Measures to protect displaced and returnee communities made vulnerable to cholera and other waterborne disease outbreaks by poor sanitation conditions will also be implemented.

Education: A total of 300,000 conflict-affected children and youth will have improved access to a quality education in a safe and protective environment through the establishment of temporary learning spaces and the provision of education materials and psychosocial support. UNICEF will also focus on reducing gender inequality across all education activities.

Child Protection: UNICEF will continue to support government efforts to prevent the recruitment of children into the national armed forces and armed groups. In addition, UNICEF will advocate for the release of children associated with armed conflict and support their reintegration back into their families and communities. Psychosocial support and reintegration services will also be provided for separated or unaccompanied children, and child protection networks comprising NGOs, social workers, schools and community leaders strengthened.

Summary of UNICEF Emergency Needs to fulfil
Core Commitments for Children for 2010
Sector US$
Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) 28,500,000
Programme of Expanded Assistance for Returnees (PEAR) 21,500,000
Health 12,000,000
Nutrition 24,700,000
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) 18,000,000
Education 13,000,000
Child Protection 15,800,000
Total 133,500,000