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UN Agency Helps Some 3,000 Children in Congo

UN Agency Helps Some 3,000 Children In Dr Of Congo Disarm

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is helping to maintain a separate space for children in disarmament sites in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and while nearly 3,000 youngsters associated with armed militias have been attended to at seven sites, not enough have been girls, the agency said today.

Of the 2,914 children whom child protection services in Ituri district received during the Disarmament and Community Reintegration (DCR) process, 2,353 are boys, and 561 are girls, UNICEF said in a release.

Before the DCR programme started last September, 337 boys and 62 girls arrived for protection, it said.

"While the number of children who have left the armed forces and various armed groups has increased in Ituri, we are deeply concerned about the low numbers of girls who have been released," UNICEF DRC Child Protection Officer Trish Hiddleston said.

Noting that recruiting children for armed conflict violates international and Congolese law, UNICEF called on the armed groups to release all children and to allow them to resume their normal lives and their schooling.

"Girls and boys are not only used for combat, but also for carrying arms, cooking, cleaning and other tasks. Often, girls and boys are also not only victims of daily psychological, verbal and physical violence, but also sexual violence which exposes them to HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy," it said.

When children could not immediately be reunified with their families, UNICEF and its child protection partners have taken care of them, providing such needs as civilian clothes and tracing their families.

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