Child Protection Alert - Eastern Congo
26,500 CHILDREN AT IMMEDIATE RISK AS RAINS COMPLICATE NEW CRISIS IN EASTERN D.R. CONGO
CHILDREN FACING STARVATION, DISEASE AND ABUSE AS AGENCIES’ RESPONSE SHOWS A “FATAL PAUSE”
More than 25,000 children in makeshift camps are facing disease, starvation and risk of sexual violence as the onset of the rainy season exacerbates a new crisis in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),
Since April, Eastern DR Congo has seen a dramatic escalation of violence following clashes between a new rebel movement called M23 and the National Congolese Army. The rebels have attempted to seize and maintain control of North Kivu, near Goma.
Although makeshift camps for those fleeing violence have been developing in the east of the country since May, and have grown dramatically in July and August, the response from the UN and international community represents a “fatal pause in care and protection”, according to our Child Protection Alert.
We're calling for:
- Immediate action to identify and help unaccompanied and vulnerable children.
- Child protection support, including the deployment of trained protection staff in and around the spontaneous camps.
- Donors to urgently meet funding requirements to the Humanitarian Appeal Process to dramatically speed up their response to the crisis.
Our own staff in DRC have travelled to the improvised camps and have found little to no provision for people fleeing violence. The UNHCR’s mandate means they will not be able to meet the needs of the displaced population in the spontaneous camps until October, when the rainy season will be at its height and food stocks in the camps will have run out.
A young girl in the camp told us: “We have received no food, no shelter, we've been in the camp almost one month.....we are eating just a little, once a day...I think we have food for just another four days. I do not know where my family is, we are alone here in this camp”
The UN estimates there are at least half a million displaced people in the North Kivu region of DRC, 50,000 of whom are living in makeshift camps. 275,606 of those affected by the conflict are primary school-aged children.
We have also identified scores of unaccompanied children, abandoned or lost due to the conflict. Separated children and those who are not protected are at further risk of sexual abuse, exploitation and recruitment into the armed forces and armed groups.
Amongst the children we met in the camp was Francine, aged 10, who said:
“One evening there was a lot of gunfire and we ran away. Gun shots and bombs went off and my mother fell down in front of me. A bullet had gone into her chest. She took my hand [still lying on the ground] and told me to run. We had to leave my mother there – they told me she was dead. When I think of her I cry. I hurt.”
Rob Williams, our Chief Executive says:
“This is an all-out emergency in a country already in the midst of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. If the UN and the international community do not act ahead of the rainy season, many thousands of people, including unaccompanied children may die. Children in particular face the immediate health risks from lack of food and unclean drinking water, on top of which, insecure living environments make them acutely at risk of serious violations including exploitation and sexual violence.”