‘Relentless’ violence worsening plight of children in DRC’s Ituri province

 A recent spike in inter-community violence in the eastern province of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is worsening the plight of children there, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Monday, urging greater international support.

A UN statement said UNICEF and humanitarian organizations have repeatedly warned about the violence, which includes machete attacks and assaults.

Jean Metenier, UNICEF’s Senior for Eastern DRC, said the agency will continue to raise the alarm to prevent the world from becoming numb to he described as a desperate humanitarian crisis.

“Every day, children and rights are undermined relentless violence and grave rights violations, displacement, rising food insecurity, and lack of access to pretty much every basic service, including schooling,” he stated.

“We say it over and again: we need the international community to step up, as our work is barely scratching the surface of needs.”

UNICEF said nearly 175 grave violations have occurred across Ituri since January, such as recruitment of children into armed groups, killing and maiming of children, violence and attacks on schools and hospitals.

In most cases, humanitarians were denied full access to the areas most affected violence in Djugu and Irumu territories.

The attacks have displaced a large number of people, UNICEF said, and more than 275 children, including 118 girls, have been separated from parents.

Ituri has a total population of 5.7 million people. It is estimated that more than 1.6 million people across the province are displaced, and 2.8 million are in need of some form of emergency assistance.

UNICEF’s data on the full extent of the crisis there show that more than 100,000 children under five suffer severe acute malnutrition: a direct consequence of food insecurity that is affecting nearly 800,000 people, while attacks on schools have affected around 400,000 children aged six to 11.

The statemen said although the UN agency has provided non-food and hygiene to more than 8,000 people in South Irumu – and is mobilising partners in areas such as child protection, water, sanitation, and health – these efforts will not be enough to meet the immense needs.

UNICEF for agencies and donors to continue supporting response in the DRC, noting that its 2021 humanitarian appeal for $384.4 million is less than 20 per cent funded. (PANA/NAN)