The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday said it is “horrified” by an attack on the displaced people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The attack against the Lala camp in the DRC’s eastern province of Ituri happened on Monday.
“It has left 45 people dead, including 23 children.
“At least seven people were also injured, including three children.
“The targeting of these already vulnerable civilians is beyond contemptible,” said UNICEF DRC Representative Grant Leaity.
“The trauma that these children are living through is unimaginable.
“It is unacceptable that these families who have already fled their homes are once again the direct target of violence.”
In addition to causing deaths and injury, the militants set fire to more than 800 shelters and stole livestock.
UNICEF and its partners in Ituri estimate that 5,000 children are affected by the attack, which lost parents, siblings, their homes and possessions, their toys and school supplies.
The conflict in Ituri has persisted since 2017, but the situation has deteriorated considerably since the start of 2023 with armed groups targeting civilians, schools and hospitals.
In the past six months, militants have killed around 600 civilians and injured over 200.
The lack of safety and protection of children is becoming an increasingly pressing concern and Ituri now ranks second out of DRC’s 26 provinces for the highest number of UN-verified grave violations against children.
The UN mission in the DRC, known as MONUSCO, also reaffirmed its commitment to working alongside the Congolese defense and security forces to increase joint patrols to protect civilians and displaced people.
According to local reports, the attack was allegedly blamed on fighters from the Cooperative for the Development of Congo, a loose association of militia groups operating within the DRC.
UNICEF and partners are identifying and caring for children who have lost their parents and families, providing psychological support to injured children and their parents.
They are also caring to injured children who have not been hospitalised.
It said through the UNICEF Rapid Response mechanism, 800 shelters will be provided to affected families within 72 hours.
“We urge the government to bring the assailants to account and to step up the protection of children and their families.” (Xinhua/NAN)