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DR Congo: Grave Consequences For Children Witnessing ‘Appalling Violence’, UNICEF Reports


The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF,
appealed on Thursday for urgent resources to support
thousands of people who have fled armed violence in two
small towns in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic
of the Congo (DRC) over the past two
months.

The simultaneous attacks on Boga and
Tchabi, located in Ituri Province, have been devastating for
children, the agency said,
as many have witnessed brutal acts committed by assailants
wielding machetes and heavy weapons.

A 12-year-old
orphan called Grace is among them.

A child’s
plea

Grace arrived unaccompanied at a camp in the
provincial capital, Bunia, in early June after she was
separated from her grandmother during the attack on her
hometown, Boga.

“I was watching television in our
house in the middle of the night when the gunmen attacked at
four in the morning,” she recalled. “They were firing
bullets everywhere and everyone took different paths to
flee. As I fled, I saw a mother whose head had been cut
off.”

Grace managed to find a vehicle that was
taking displaced people from Boga to Bunia, a journey of
more than 100 km. UNICEF and
partners are trying to reunite her with her
grandmother.

Meanwhile, Grace is being cared for by a
foster mother in a crowded shelter in one of two main camps
in Bunia housing more than 20,000 displaced
people.

“I ask the world not to ignore the appalling
violence that is going on here,” she said. “We must do
all we can to get rid of people who kill innocent
civilians.”

Entire families killed

Similar
attacks like the ones on Boga and Tchabi have uprooted whole
communities, UNICEF said, with reports of entire families,
including children, hacked to death. Health centres and
schools have been ransacked, and whole villages set on
fire.

Around 90 per cent of the population fled the
Boga area in the wake of the twin assaults, with people
seeking sanctuary north, south and east of the
town.

“It is estimated that about 30,000 people have
fled their homes in the recent displacements, including more
than 9,500 in Bunia,” said Dr. Ibrahim Cisse, UNICEF Bunia
Chief Field Officer.

Most of the displaced stay with
friends and relatives in the host community, not in camps,
and needs are great, particularly for food, essential
household items and other non-food items.

Support for
displaced people

UNICEF is working with humanitarian
partners to distribute thousands of household essentials,
and sanitary and hygiene kits, in addition to providing
tarpaulins to more than 4,000 households.

Dr Cisse
said it was unlikely that people will be able to return to
their homes despite military operations to eliminate armed
groups in the Boga area.

UNICEF has urgently appealed
for resources to support the displaced, mostly children and
women, who have suffered serious rights violations,
including rape.

Top priorities include working to
reunite children separated from their families, or recruited
into armed groups, as well as providing access to
healthcare, nutrition, drinking water, education and other
basic necessities.

In a report published earlier this
year, UNICEF called for an end to the conflict in the
eastern DRC, which has generated one of the worst
humanitarian crises in the world.

Some 1.6 million
people were driven from their homes in the first six months
of 2020 alone.

Overall, 5.2 million Congolese are
displaced, which is more than in any country, except
Syria.

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