Every day 1,200 people die from violence, disease in the DR of Congo: UNICEF

Child soldiers guard road in Bunia, DRC

24 July 2006 – Every day 1,200 people, half of them children, are killed in the conflict-hit Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) because of violence, disease and malnutrition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a report issued today.

The report, Child Alert: DRC, also states that more children under age five die each year in the African country than in China – a country with 23 times the population. It draws attention to the to the appalling fact that the total countrywide death toll every six months is similar to that for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed more than 230,000 people in 12 countries.

Despite such grim statistics, the author of the report, UNICEF UK Ambassador for Humanitarian Emergencies Martin Bell, says that Sunday’s landmark elections in the war-ravaged country could be a turning point.

“It is easy to be overwhelmed by what has happened in DRC because of the sheer scale of it. But we owe it to the children to give them the future they deserve and these elections may be the opportunity of their lifetime.”

UNICEF says that around four million people have been killed in the almost decade-long conflict in the DRC, making it the world’s deadliest, humanitarian crisis, but despite the scale of the suffering it has not received the attention it deserves.

“Children bear the brunt of conflict, disease and death, but not only as casualties,” said UNICEF DRC Representative Tony Bloomberg, who attended the report’s launch in London. “They are also witnesses to, and sometimes forced participants in, atrocities and crimes that inflict physical and psychological harm.”

“While DRC has experienced death rates like that of the tsunami every six months, it has not received the attention it deserves, either from the media or the public. UNICEF issued this report to call attention to this hidden emergency and its impact on children. We stand ready to work with the elected government and all other actors to begin immediately improving the lives of Congo’s children.”

UNICEF has requested $93.67 million dollars through a consolidated appeal for its programmes in the DRC this year but so far it is under funded by 62 per cent. Relative stability has allowed more access in eastern parts of the country, but more resources are necessary to meet the growing need, the Agency said.

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