DR Congo

Save the Children forced to evacuate as DR Congo fighting intensifies

Source
Posted
Originally published
Save the Children has had to begin temporary evacuation of its staff in North Kivu due to intensified fighting in the area.

The children's charity has been working in North Kivufor the last 14 years, negotiating the release of child soldiers, reunifying children with their families and helping to get children into school. However with conflict now threatening to overtake the region's capital, Goma, many aid organisations are being forced to evacuate aid workers to safer areas.

Hussein Mursal, Save the Children's country director in DRC, said:

"The conflict is now threatening the lives of our aid workers so we have temporarily to withdraw our staff to safety. With the humanitarian crisis worsening day by day it's vital for us to be able to get help to communities, but the security situation is making it impossible. We are poised to return as soon as it's safe enough to do so, as there are thousands of children who desperately need our support.

"Children here are absolutely petrified and are without any protection. Thousands are now trying to cope on their own in the open, having fled the violence. They have seen their homes burned, their families attacked, and are traumatised by the fighting. Many are at risk of being recruited to fight by armed men."

Armed groups are targeting children for recruitment and rape as families flee vicious fighting in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo.

With tens of thousands of people on the move in an atmosphere of terror and chaos, many children have become separated from their families and are at risk from armed men on the road.

Fighters from all sides are using children in combat, forcing them straight onto the frontline where they are expected to kill, act as spies or carry dangerous, heavy weaponry. Girls are at high risk of being abducted, raped and sexually abused.

Before this wave of conflict, there were already an estimated 3,000 children held by armed groups. This number is now increasing, with Save the Children receiving regular reports of recruitment and re-recruitment of children.

Mursal continued:

"The situation is in meltdown. Nkunda's troops and government forces are wreaking havoc across the east, and children are first in the firing line. In the last year Save the Children has helped 2,200 children out of armed groups and reunited most of them with their families - now all of these children are in danger of being sucked back into the fighting.

"Children are sleeping on the road with no shelter, no clean water, and with very little food. World leaders must act urgently to bring pressure to stop the fighting in DRC, protect civilians and stop children from being recruited."

ENDS

For interviews in DRC or London or more information, please contact Save the Children's media unit on +44 207 012 6841 / +44 7831 650 409 / media@savethechildren.org.uk

Notes to Editors

Save the Children is the world's leading independent children's charity. We're outraged that millions of children are still denied proper healthcare, food, education and protection. We're working flat out to get every child their rights and we're determined to make further, faster changes. How many? How fast? It's up to you. For further information about our work please visit www.savethechildren.org.uk