© UNICEF RDC 2017 Vockel
KINSHASA/ GENEVA/ NEW YORK/ HONG KONG, 21 April 2017– The crisis in the Greater Kasaï region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is having a devastating impact on children, UNICEF warned today. More than 1.5 million children, including 600,000 who have already been displaced from their homes, are at risk due to the extreme violence.
“Children in Kasai are being forced to endure horrific ordeals,” said Dr Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF Representative a.i. in DRC, following a field visit to the affected region. “Hundreds of children have been injured in the violence, with reports of children detained, raped, and even executed. This horrific abuse of children cannot be allowed to continue, and perpetrators must be held to account.”
Violence and instability in the Kasai provinces, among the poorest regions of the country, began in August 2016 after a traditional leader was killed in fighting with security forces, and deteriorated further during the first three months of 2017.
According to UNICEF estimates:
• 2,000 children are being used by the militias in the affected region.
• At least 300 children have been seriously injured in the violence.
• More than 4,000 children have been separated from their families.
The violence has also had a devastating impact on education and health systems in the region. More than 350 schools have been destroyed. In the Province of Kasaï Central 1 in 3 health centers are no longer functional, putting children at an increased risk of disease.
“These children should be safe in their homes, schools and playgrounds, not forced to fight on the battlefield or wounded or killed in the violence,” said Dr. Oyewale.
Unless the situation improves rapidly, UNICEF has warned that the six million children – the entire child population of the three Kasai provinces – are at risk.
UNICEF has secured the release of 384 children detained or held in the Kasaï region, previously enrolled in the militias.
UNICEF has also scaled up its emergency response in the region, including projects targeting 173,000 people with health, nutrition, protection, education, WASH and Non-food-items (NFI).
UNICEF renews its call on all parties to the conflict to ensure the rights of children are upheld.
UNICEF is also appealing for funding. To date, the organization has only received HK$27.3 million (US$3.5 million) of the HK$160.68 million (US$20.6 million) needed to respond to the crisis in Greater Kasai.