A recent surge in armed insurgency and intercommunal violence in the eastern province of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is worsening the plight of children, with serious violations against women and children being reported, said the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Monday.

There have been nearly 175 grave violations since January 2021, including cases of recruitment of children into armed groups, killings and maiming of children, sexual violence and attacks on schools and hospitals, said UNICEF in a press release.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, humanitarians were denied full access to the most violence-affected areas in the territories of Djugu and Irumu.

A large number of people have been displaced because of the attacks, which has separated more than 275 children from their parents throughout Ituri, it said.

More than 1.6 million people are estimated to be displaced in Ituri, out of a total population of 5.7 million people. It is estimated that 2.8 million people are in need of some form of emergency assistance.

More than 100,000 children under 5 are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, a direct consequence of the alarmingly high levels of food insecurity that affects nearly 800,000 people.

Attacks on schools have left almost 400,000 already displaced and returning children aged 6-11 out of school in the territories of Djugu, Irumu and Mahagi. Only one in three people in the province has access to basic sanitation services.

UNICEF, which is covering the needs of a small proportion of the people in Ituri, urges other humanitarian actors to deploy resources in those areas not covered by its activities.

At the same time, UNICEF is calling on donors to continue their generosity toward the Congolese people as the fund’s 2021 humanitarian appeal for 384.4 million U.S. dollars is currently only 18 percent funded.

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