DR Congo

DR Congo: UNICEF Humanitarian Appeal for Children and Women: Jan-Dec 2000

Originally published


  • One million displaced persons
  • 830,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), and 160,000 Congolese refugees in Tanzania, Zambia and Rwanda
  • 270,000 refugees from neighbouring countries in DRC
  • 2.2 million persons in the DRC suffer grave food insecurity
  • 4 million persons in inaccessible areas vulnerable to food insecurity
  • Maternal mortality doubled in decade to 1,800 deaths per 100,000 live births
  • 50,000 abandoned street children
  • 20,000 child soldiers
  • Spread of AIDS fuelled by massive population movements and military presence
  • Children as young as eight years old forced into prostitution
  • Increase immunization coverage;
  • Increase epidemic prevention and control;
  • Prioritize water treatment at onset of emergencies;
  • Increase nutritional status of women and children;
  • Provide emergency supplies to refugees in camps;
  • Support demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers.
UNICEF seeks to meet the basic health needs of war-affected populations in an effort to prevent epidemics and reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality. Child protection interventions will include relief, survival and demobilization activities, targeting in particular the 20,000 unaccompanied minors (UAMs) in DRC. UNICEF will contribute to the interagency Emergency Humanitarian Interventions (EHI) programme to improve UN capacity to respond to emergency outbreaks while focusing on the most common emergencies arising in DRC.


Emergency relief to IDPs
Child protection
Demobilization of child soldiers
Emergency humanitarian interventions


An estimated 14 million Congolese are directly affected by the armed conflict in Equateur, Orientale, Kivu, Maniema, Eastern Kasai and Katanga provinces. While the signing of the Lusaka Accords brought hope of improved security, conditions remain dismal after three decades of corrupt misrule of the former Zaire. Towns are depleted and homes are pillaged; dispensaries and hospitals lack medication, doctors and nurses; commerce has disappeared. The economy, no longer supported by traditional internal trade activities, is unable to sustain an ever-growing urban population. Foreign multilateral aid to DRC has slowed to a trickle over the past decade.

The health care system continues to deteriorate. A sharp increase in epidemic diseases, including cholera, measles, polio and meningitis, reflects poor access to potable water (42 per cent) and poor access to primary health care (26 per cent). For the second time this decade, there was an outbreak of a highly dangerous haemorrhagic fever epidemic. Infant mortality is currently estimated at 127 deaths per 1,000 births. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 1998, over 7 million Congolese were infected by onchocerciasis (river blindness). Over 25,000 were blinded in the absence of treatment.

Child malnutrition rates are increasing, not only among vulnerable groups, but also in traditionally prosperous food-processing areas. Child malnutrition rates vary from 3 per cent in Kinshasa to 14 per cent in Lubumbashi. Increasing numbers of pregnant and lactating women are malnourished.

All parties to the conflict, including an estimated eight non-state actors, recruit children as soldiers. There has been an unprecedented increase in the numbers of abandoned street children and child prostitutes in all major urban areas; an estimated 25,000 minors attend nutritional rehabilitation centres. An estimated 210,000 IDP children are exposed to epidemic diseases and food shortages.

Refugees from neighbouring countries have formed large communities. An estimated 60,000 Sudanese are in Orientale province; 35,000 Rwandans are in eastern DRC; and 20,000 Burundian Hutus remain in Kivu. When fighting resumed between UNITA and the Government of Angola, 47,000 Angolan refugees entered DRC and 46,000 refugees from Republic of the Congo (RoC) crossed into Bas Congo. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is actively engaged in voluntary repatriation measures. UNICEF, in partnership with WHO, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Food Programme (WFP), seeks to ensure access, protection and material assistance. The church supports over 80 per cent of primary schools and provides medical care throughout DRC, and is an effective and committed partner in relief interventions.

UNICEF received $1.2 million of the requested $4.1 million for the 1999 CAP. These monies funded food security, child protection, health and emergency humanitarian interventions. Coverage was diminished, as was the quality of assistance provided to war-affected populations. Funding shortages also prevented expansion into less secure zones.


UNICEF made important gains in DRC in 1999:

  • UNICEF, in partnership with WHO, conducted nationwide National Immunization Days (NIDs) in August, September and October 1999. In a country bitterly divided, nationwide immunization campaigns were implemented on both sides of the front line. Ten million children were inoculated against polio, which has not been eradicated in DRC. The NIDs were supported by UN-organized east-west humanitarian flights from Kinshasa to rebel-held areas;
  • Agreements were obtained from authorities to halt child recruitment into the armed forces and to demobilize child soldiers;
  • Improved access towards the end of 1999 resulted in increased monitoring and immunization coverage;
  • UNICEF furnished essential drugs to 19 health centres in North Kivu and 11 health centres in South Kivu. In addition, medical stocks were stored in Tshopo district and Kisingani;
  • Epidemiological surveillance and control were resumed in 8 out of 11 provinces. Health institutions rehabilitated in 1997/98 were looted or severely damaged in 1999;
  • Rehabilitation of health infrastructures was carried out by UNICEF only in Bas Congo province, due to prevailing insecurity and lack of funding;
  • UNICEF, in partnership with WFP, supported 75 nutritional centres in South and North Kivu and Kinshasa, providing therapeutic feeding to over 12,000 children.
UNICEF intervened to protect children on both sides of the line. Intervention measures included advocacy; support for establishment of national institutions for child protection; aid distributions; family reunification; and psychosocial rehabilitation of traumatized children.

In the first six months of 1999, UNICEF focused on advocacy at the national level for demobilization of child soldiers.

In May 1999, at the signing of the DRC/UNICEF Plan of Operations, the Government adopted as a priority the demobilization of all minors from its armed forces. Since July 1999, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Human Rights, a working group founded by UNICEF and consisting of the Ministries of Defence, Social and Foreign Affairs, Interior and Reconstruction, and the International Labour Organization (ILO), worked on the development of a strategy for demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers.


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