The number of people displaced by the last six years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is now estimated at 3 million – 2.5 million in the east alone – and nearly 4 million people have died as a direct or indirect result of the conflict, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today.
In the east, most of the 2.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) were living with host families, in camps, or in the bush, where food, safe water and sometimes even space were in short supply, according to the agency.
Children make up 30 per cent to 50 per cent of the fighting forces in eastern Congo, with boys used as soldiers and porters, and girls suffering sexual abuse. Only 4 in 10 children in the region have been enrolled in school, but UNICEF intervention had increased the registration of girls in the first grade this year.
“We have to hold responsible the Government and the international communities, all that are involved in the conflict, to live up to their promises – basically to put an end to this conflict that is destroying a country,” said Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF representative for the DRC.
Meanwhile, the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) provided an airplane for the Government to fly an investigation and conciliation team of senior officials to Goma because combatants believed to be rebel factions of the national army are fighting in the area of Kanyabayonga, North Kivu province, and have displaced 30,000 people.
Two assessment missions on 14 and 15 December had evaluated the amount of humanitarian assistance needed, the Mission said.
MONUC, saying it believes that Rwanda carried out its threat of 23 November to send troops to the DRC, called on foreign groups to stop lending support to insurgents. MONUC patrols said unidentified soldiers had received weapons and supplies from foreign sources.
In response, the Mission said it was sending all its available peacekeeping troops east to Rutshuru, Kanyabonga, Rwindi, Goma, Beni, Lubero, Butembo, Masisi, Walikale and Nyabiondo.