A new wave of violence in Ituri province in eastern DR Congo has forced aid organisations to reduce or suspend their activities, leaving thousands of families without life-saving humanitarian support, including food assistance, education and health services.
Save the Children, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) are among the organisations that have had to temporarily reduce or suspend activities since fighting escalated at the weekend. More than 320,000 people in Djugu territory are now at risk of being cut off from humanitarian assistance, warn the three organisations.
The reduction and suspension of activities come at a time when the country is facing the world’s largest hunger crisis this century. In Ituri province alone, over half of the population – nearly 3 million people – are facing extreme levels of hunger. Of all the provinces in DRC, Ituri has the largest number of people facing extreme hunger, and nutrition and health actors like Save the Children have now lost access.
“Already 1.5 million people are already displaced in Ituri, half of them children. They are relying on humanitarian assistance to survive. The disruption of access to food, water, shelter, healthcare and protection services will only push these extremely vulnerable populations further towards the abyss,” said Caitlin Brady, NRC’s Country Director.
Many armed actors in DRC have been accused of grave violations of child rights in conflict.
“Children and women are paying the highest price in conflicts. Hospitals have been attacked, denying pregnant women and hungry children access to health care; schools have been attacked, denying children the right to education; children are likely to be more and more recruited to armed groups and even killed in the violence. In our ongoing programmes in the area, for weeks now, more than 85,000 children have been left behind due to lack of access in their communities or health centres that used to care for them,” said Save the Children’s Country Director Amavi Akpamagbo.
“Women and children face extreme levels of physical and sexual violence at the hands of armed actors. We have programming to protect these groups but it’s increasingly hard to safely access them. We must see an end to abuses and impunity,” said Martine Villeneuve, Country Director for Danish Refugee Council.
The three organisations call on all parties to the conflict to safeguard civilians’ lives and dignity and allow safe, principled humanitarian access to all affected populations.