UN Steps Up Emergency Aid For Children In DR Congo
DR Congo: UN Steps Up Emergency Aid For Children Affected By New Fighting
New York, Sep 18 2008 7:10PM
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is scaling up existing emergency programmes in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where increased fighting has forced over 100,000 people to flee their homes, social services to close, and humanitarian organizations to suspend aid.
“This fighting is again having a brutal impact on the children and women of the Kivus,” UNICEF’s eastern DRC Chief of Field Operations Julien Harneis said of the two provinces affected by the new hostilities that erupted two and a half weeks ago between the army and rebels loyal to the former general Laurent Nkunda.
“Many children are split up from their families as they flee; in displacement they are even more vulnerable to malaria, measles, cholera, and malnutrition. Over the last year we were able to bring down rates of malnutrition below emergency levels but this renewed fighting puts that all into question.”
Some 1,000 children have been separated from their families with many being exploited and abused. Water springs have been sabotaged cutting off clean water to thousands of civilians and communicable diseases such as cholera and measles are at risk of spreading. Malnourishment is again in danger of rising past emergency levels, access to school is being reduced and the farming season is stunted, reducing children's survival and healthy development prospects.
With its non-governmental organization (NGO) partner Save the Children, UNICEF has identified some 500 separated children and launched family tracings to reunify them. Mercy Corps is trucking clean water to over 60,000 people on the Goma-Rutshuru road and Oxfam Quebec is reinstalling chlorination points in Kirotshe to meet the needs of 35,000 people.
Emergency measles vaccinations for up to 100,000 children are being prepared with the Government and assessments in nutrition, essential household items and emergency shelter, and education sectors are being coordinated to ensure all new needs are met.
Children continue to be abused, exploited, and to die from easily preventable diseases from the ongoing instability in North Kivu, UNICEF reported, calling on all armed groups to respect children’s rights and ensure that they have access to the protection of their family, their community, clean water, health care, and education.
Hostilities have continued in eastern DRC despite stabilization in much of the rest of the vast country, which was torn by years of civil war.