Recent violence near the town of Kamango in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, has forced more than 66,000 Congolese, approximately 55 per cent of whom are children, to seek refuge in neighbouring Uganda. Refugees began streaming into Uganda’s Bubanbdi sub-county following an 11 July attack on Kamango town by rebel forces.
Many of the refugee children have recounted chaotic scenes of armed attacks in the middle of the night, causing widespread panic and individual family members to flee in different directions to avoid being killed. Some children were separated from their parents and siblings amidst the confusion, making their own way to the Ugandan border.
At least 37,037 refugee children have been registered by the Ugandan Red Cross; of these, 122 are unaccompanied minors who have been separated from their families as a result of the violence. Some 63 unaccompanied minors have so far been reunited with a family member.
The humanitarian situation facing many children in eastern DRC remains dire. As of June 2013, an estimated 4,500 children remain in the ranks of armed forces and groups, including some 2,000 across North Kivu province. None of their recruiters have thus far been prosecuted. UNICEF has also received reports of children killed or injured as a direct result of the current clashes.
Today, humanitarian access is severely hampered in eastern DRC which makes it difficult for UNICEF and its partners to assist those who are most in need. Since 2011, 376 incidents of denial of humanitarian access have been documented and 113 schools and medical facilities were attacked by parties to the conflict. The trend is upward and UNICEF calls on all parties to ensure that children are protected against all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse.
In Uganda, UNICEF is responding to the immediate needs of Congolese refugee children, distributing school in a box kits and supporting the resumption of classes in schools previously housing refugees, setting up child-friendly spaces, providing health supplies including to establish children and women’s wards, as well as vaccines and life-saving supplies, and providing water, sanitation and hygiene support.
Over the past two and a half years in DRC, UNICEF and its partners have assisted 10,152 children formerly associated with armed forces and groups with temporary care, family reunification and socio-economic reintegration. More than 16,000 children have received psychosocial support and medical treatment.
UNICEF requires nearly US$7.5 million to continue its humanitarian support for Congolese refugee children in Uganda through the end of the year, while UNICEF still needs US$78 million for continued humanitarian operations in DRC itself.
Notes for editors:
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Rose Foley, Media Manager, UNICEF UK at email@example.com or + 44 (0)20 7375 6077/ + 44 (0)7964 296 431
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