Up to 100,000 people displaced in the last week in North Kivu, DRC; UNICEF urgently responding to prevent cholera, malnutrition, and child exploitation
Goma, North Kivu, DRC, 03 November, 2008 - Up to 100,000 people, around 60% of which are children, have fled their homes due to heavy fighting between belligerent armed groups in North Kivu last week. Around 250,000 people are now believed to have been displaced in the last two months bringing the total number of internally displaced to around 1,000,000, 20% of the entire North Kivu population.
The condition of newly displaced children and women is desperate. Thousands have had very little to eat since fleeing. Their access to clean water and health care has been minimal. Hundreds of children are presumed to have been separated from their families, forced to fend for their survival on their own. The school year that has just started has been disrupted for tens of thousands of children, for now the second year in a row.
UNICEF with its partners is reinforcing emergency responses to the newly displaced. Several trucks carrying clean water are arriving every day to the 40,000-50,000 displaced people in Kibati, 15kms north of Goma. Clean water is critical to curb cholera and diarrhea outbreaks, which is contracted from contaminated water sources. High energy biscuits for over 15,000 young children are being distributed to young children in Kibati to help ward off malnutrition. Ill and injured children and women are receiving free medicine and health care to prevent easily preventable deaths from disease. Children separated from their families are being placed with temporary foster families to protect them; family tracing is being carried out to locate their families so that they can soon be reunified.
In spite of extremely limited access clean water has continued to be delivered to Rutshuru where tens of thousands have been in flight. Today, UNICEF participated in an assessment mission, with partners and UN agencies, to evaluate the most pressing humanitarian needs there. Additional water and sanitation, health, nutrition, protection, and education activities are being planned to immediately intervene once assessments are completed.
Water and sanitation supplies such as jerrycans, bladders, and water treatment tablets have arrived and are being used to reinforce water and sanitation activities throughout the province. Thousands of blankets, buckets, and plastic sheets for emergency shelter will be airlifted in by the end of the week to provide essential survival items to the newly displaced. $8M is being secured to meet the additional water and sanitation, health, nutrition, protection, education, and essential household and emergency shelter needs for North Kivu’s conflict affected children and women over the next three months.
After more than a decade of insecurity and conflict, the suffering of children in eastern DRC continues at monumental levels. Only with durable peace and stability can eastern DRC’s long suffering children have the guaranteed possibility to survive and realize their potential. UNICEF calls on all armed groups and actors to give this possibility a chance, to respect all children’s rights enshrined in international law.
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