At least 80,000 children recently returned from Angola to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are now in need of humanitarian assistance, UNICEF said today. More than 300,000 Congolese citizens have returned from Angola since 1 October, raising concerns among humanitarian partners of another crisis for a country already dealing with multiple conflicts and an Ebola outbreak.
“Thousands of children are walking long distances, exposed to inclement weather, hunger, insecurity and the risk of violence,” said Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF Representative in the DRC. “They have limited access to safe water and health care and are being deprived of education. We are very worried about their situation and that of their families.”
Making matters worse for returning children and families, the price of basic food staples has risen sharply in some areas, which could lead to an increase in cases of malnutrition among children.
The arrival of returnees in recent weeks has occurred mostly in the Province of Kasai, although some children and families have returned to neighbouring provinces, including Kasai Central and Kwango.
At the various border points with Angola, the national migration services are overwhelmed by the large number of people returning to the DRC, many of whom remain concentrated in small border towns. Authorities fear the resurgence of epidemics, given the close proximity in which the returned population currently lives.
UNICEF and its partners conducted an assessment of the humanitarian needs in Kamako, Kasai Province, where most of the returnees are located, and is preparing to support returning children and their families through:
- Installation of safe drinking water and hand washing points, and emergency shelters in 27 settlement sites set up to welcome the population in Kasai;
- Prevention of malaria through the distribution of 227,000 mosquito nets;
- Management of severe acute malnutrition cases among children under five;
- Preventive vaccination against measles in children from 6 to 59 months;
- Establishment of learning spaces to accommodate school-aged children;
- Identification and reunification of unaccompanied children.
To help returnee children and their families, UNICEF has appealed for US $3 million to fund its immediate response over the coming weeks. The additional US $6 million will be needed to support the resettlement of returned populations to their home or host areas.