Rhoe, Ituri province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, April 6, 2022 – While in Ituri, Catherine Russell visited Rhoe; Site of a refugee camp that now houses around 63,000 people, including 36,000 children, internally displaced due to conflict and violence. Most of the people seeking refuge in this camp arrived last November after being evicted from another camp for displaced people in the nearby town of Drodro, which was attacked by men armed with machetes. This security incident represents one of the latest episodes of inter-communal violence that has ravaged eastern DRC for decades and has already displaced around five million people.
Catherine Russell spoke to children and families affected by the violence, including Blukwa*, a 14-year-old boy who narrowly escaped death in Drodro and witnessed the brutal murder of his best friend during the attack.
“Blukwa told me that after witnessing the murder of his best friend, he wanted to die too.” called Catherine Russell. “No child should ever experience such tragedy and horror. Over the past two decades, countless children in eastern DRC have suffered terribly as a result of conflict and ongoing attacks on civilians. They urgently need a political solution to this crisis in order to live in peace. »
During Drodro’s attack, due to the chaos and confusion, Blukwa and other children were separated from their families. Since then, Blukwa and nearly 60 other children have been reunited with their families thanks to the work of AJEDEC, a UNICEF-supported Congolese NGO.
UNICEF warns of the catastrophic conditions in the Rhoe camp. The violence, which has led to widespread displacement in the region, has continued over the past two weeks and shows no sign of abating. The camp, located 45 kilometers north-east of the provincial capital Bunia, could until recently only be reached by helicopter for aid organizations due to insecurity and attacks on helpers. The area around the camp continues to be attacked by several armed groups.
protect children from violence
“Thousands of children and families are trapped on a remote hilltop with extremely limited protection and access to shelter and basic services such as clean water, sanitation, education, health and nutrition,” called Catherine Russell. “We have seen outbreaks of respiratory disease, diarrhea and malaria before. All necessary efforts must be made to strengthen the provision of essential services to those held in Rhoe camp and to protect them from violence. »
UNICEF and partners are expanding their work for children and families in Rhoe camp, including the recent distribution of more than 5,000 kits containing blankets, buckets, canisters, cooking utensils and soap. UNICEF also works with partners to provide education and psychosocial support to children in the camp.
UNICEF’s education program in the camp benefits 1,200 displaced people and children from the host community in primary schools. It welcomes students from five schools that have had to be abandoned due to massive evictions. Many children go to school in several large tents next to a school in the host community that overlooks the camp.
*Name has been changed