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UNICEF applauds NZ Govt for DR Congo efforts

UNICEF (UN Children’s Fund)

Media Release

UNICEF applauds NZ Govt support for DR Congo humanitarian efforts

Wellington, 7 November. – UNICEF is welcoming the New Zealand Government’s decision to make available $1 million to help people caught up in the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Prime Minister Helen Clark announced today that the funding would be made through NZAID to support the international humanitarian efforts in the DR Congo.

Heavy fighting has been taking place in North Kivu, a province in the eastern part of the country, forcing hundreds of thousands of children and adults to flee from their homes in recent weeks and leaving more than a million people displaced in all.

UNICEF NZ Executive Director Dennis McKinlay says that the situation is desperate for many children and families caught up in the fighting.

“As people flee en masse from the conflict they are living in rough conditions and there is a real threat of outbreaks of diseases such as measles and cholera.

“Displaced children are at high risk of exploitation, violence and recruitment into military forces. UNICEF has received disturbing reports of increasing numbers of children being recruited over the past two months.

“UNICEF has started to identify vulnerable children and place them into foster families, until their families can be traced and reunification can take place.”

Mr McKinlay says UNICEF is working closely with other UN agencies and partner organisations to provide urgently needed medical, food, water and sanitation supplies. For example, UNICEF is preparing emergency measles vaccinations for up to 86,000 children in North Kivu. Emergency water-related supplies will include one million water purification tablets and 24,000 buckets.

“The purification tablets are critical to providing clean water to prevent epidemics of communicable diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea. Buckets help people to carry clean water and prevent contamination.

“UNICEF is also carrying out nutritional screening to determine the level of child malnutrition and working closely with partner organisations to distribute high energy biscuits to thousands of children.”

UNICEF is bringing in 18,000 blankets and 11,300 plastic sheets, both of which will protect children from respiratory infections – the number two killer of children in the DR Congo.

Mr McKinlay says UNICEF worldwide is calling for donations of US$12 million to meet immediate emergency needs in DR Congo over the next three months.


ENDS

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