The United Nations children’s agency has warned that 400,000 children are at risk of starving to death in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Thousands have fled to the bush in order to find safety from violent clashes between government forces and the regional militia, and many have already died due to the shortages of food and water. Since the Kasai region descended into violence in 2016, the UN in December 2017 put the crisis in the DRC at the highest level of emergency. To put this into perspective, that is the same level as Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. The UN has made an urgent call to stop the violence in order to allow for humanitarian assistance to provide support.
Unicef spokesman Christophe Boulierac stated to the BBC, “I was really shocked by what I saw there,” after his trip to Kasai. Boulierac said he visited three hospitals, where he saw children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. A few days later upon returning, many of those children had died. He added, “We are not saying that children are at risk of dying of malnutrition in Kasai, we are saying that children are already dying, they are dying, they have died, in silence, in the bush”.
An aid of $88m has been appealed for Kasai by the UN children’s agency. The already implemented aid programs have strengthened development programs and managed to assist more than two million since the crisis started. However, many have died, amongst them a large number of children that received no aid. Also, 220 health centers have been looted or destroyed, and more than 400 schools have been attacked. While it is true that more funds and aid are necessary to combat and avoid further loss of innocent lives due to severe acute malnutrition, this does not provide a longterm solution. It is crucial to the people of Kasai that the fighting stop, so that the future generations are not under threat.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the World’s poorest nations has been gripped with violence between the anti-government fighters and the forces loyal to the president. At least 70,000 civilians have fled to refugee camps in the neighboring country of Uganda. It is estimated that 770,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition, with 400,000 of them on the verge of death. Even after millions have fled the region, Unicef has said that the 3.8 million people left in the Kasai region are in need of humanitarian assistance. The organization alongside the government officials of the DRC are expected to present a report at the conference in the capital Kinshasa.
The facts make it clear that the fighting needs to stop in order to allow vulnerable children to be assisted with aid. The children are devastated, many injured or already killed, some are victims of sexual violence and some are being forced into militias. By now, some of those 400,000 children the UN put at risk have already died, this is a real tragedy occurring in the present moment. It is said one life lost is one too many, yet the countless number of children already killed has not been enough to stop those fighting. World leaders and citizens must act together to deliver the aid needed to save lives, and also pressure the DRC’s government to cooperate with a deescalation of fight that will lead to a permanent end of crisis level violence in the country.