Escalating violence in eastern DRC is straining humanitarian assistance to women and children

20 May 2020
Children sit in Linzi IDP camp 1, Djugu territory, Ituri Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in February 2020
UNICEF/UNI329862/Desjardins
Children sit in Linzi IDP camp 1, Djugu territory, Ituri Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in February 2020

KINSHASA, 20 May 2020 – Over a quarter of a million people, the majority of them children, have fled intensifying violence in Ituri Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since the beginning of the year, UNICEF warned today. This is putting further pressure on already stretched humanitarian services in one of the poorest, most insecure and disease-stricken parts of the country.

Some 200,000 people have fled Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu areas and sought shelter in host communities and extremely overcrowded displacement sites in and around Bunia, Ituri’s capital, since the end of last year.

The humanitarian situation in Djugu area is especially precarious as 70 per cent of humanitarian workers have had to suspend operations due to the worsening security context.

Around 25,000 newly displaced people who have gone to IDP camps are struggling to access safe water and sanitation. Even before the new influx, displaced people could only access five litres of water per day – far below the recommended daily minimum. 

The escalating violence has destroyed 22 health facilities across the province, wiping out large stocks of vaccines and parts of the cold chain. Over 160 schools have been damaged or looted.

Lack of access to shelter, nutrition, health and education leaves children particularly vulnerable to abuse, violence and exploitation. Between April and May alone, UNICEF has received more than 100 allegations of serious child rights violations, such as rape, killing and maiming, attacks on schools and health centres.

“The security situation in Ituri is deteriorating fast,” said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Representative in the DRC. “We need to act equally quickly to avert a crisis that would forcibly uproot and endanger even more children.”

UNICEF has maintained presence and lifesaving operations in Ituri through implementing partners, but the needs are massive and growing. Thousands of children are at risk of becoming severely malnourished. Tens of thousands are not in school and may not have classrooms to go back to when schools re-open. And deadly diseases – including measles – continue to stalk the region.

UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children appeal for the DRC is US$ 262 million. As of 15 May, only US$ 5.5 had been received and US$ 28.8 million were carried forward from the previous year, leaving a funding gap of US$ 229.3 million (87 per cent).

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Notes for editors:

Since the beginning of 2020 in Ituri, UNICEF has:

  • Provided more than 10,000 households with non-food items such as cooking utensils, mats, tarpaulin, blankets and soap to quickly respond to the immediate needs of displaced people in Mahagi, Djugu and Irumu Territories;
  • Conducted a measles campaign in partnership with the provincial health department to vaccinate more than 37,000 children under five;
  • Ensured access to quality education for approximately 50,000 children in Mahagi, Irumu and Djugu territories. Activities include identifying children outside the school system, organizing recovery programmes and remedial classes, providing psychosocial support for children affected by violence, building the capacity of teachers. Since schools are currently closed to COVID-19, UNICEF is helping print 25,000 workbooks to distribute to children in the most remote areas. Distance learning is also available via Radio Okapi and 22 community radios. In the areas affected by Ebola, UNICEF has built 40 Temporary Learning Spaces (in tents or semi-permanent structures) to ensure access to education for 3,350 children affected by Ebola;
  • Identified 588 unaccompanied children, 127 of whom have been reunited with their families;
  • Put 108 children associated with armed forces and groups in transitional care prior to family reunification; supported 150 others to continue their process of educational, socio-economic and professional reintegration;
  • Provided more than 24,000 displaced children and other vulnerable children psychosocial and recreational care activities in child-friendly spaces; provided around 100 children, victims of rape, with holistic care;
  • Treated more than 4,000 children under five suffering from severe acute malnutrition
  • Provided more than 21,000 displaced people with access to drinking water, hygiene and sanitation through the construction and rehabilitation of latrines, showers, rubbish dumps.

In Ituri, UNICEF works with a range of local and international partners: Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI), Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA), Association of Volunteers in International Service (AVSI), Action Contre la Faim, Danish Refugee Council, MEDAIR, TearFund, Programme de Promotion des Soins de Santé (PPSSP), Action des Volontaires Unis pour le Développement et la Santé (AVUDES), Association pour le Développement Social et la Sauvegarde de l’Environnement (ADSSE), Mutuelle de Santé Canaan (MUSACA), Femme Congolaise pour le Développement (FECONDE), Association des jeunes pour le développement communautaire (AJEDEC).

Media Contacts

Chiara Frisone

UNICEF DRC

Tel: +243 81 355 6717

Jean Jacques Simon

UNICEF DRC

Tel: +243 826 541 004

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A man crouches next to a girl holding a poster on Ebola, Democratic Republic of Congo
Jean-Pierre Masuku, UNICEF’s Ebola Outreach Officer in North Kivu in The Democratic Republic of the Congo, discusses Ebola prevention with a girl in Ebola-affected Beni.

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