More than 800 children separated from families in eastern Dem. Rep. of Congo clashes

Children lost contact with families amid fighting between government forces, M23 rebels.

More than 800 children separated from families in eastern Dem. Rep. of Congo clashes

The Uganda Red Cross is caring for 700 children who lost contact with their families in the wake of clashes between government forces and M23 rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), an official said Saturday.

Abel Nuwamanya, protection manager at Uganda Red Cross told Anadolu Agency that 800 children lost contact with their families but 100 are under the care of the Red Cross in the DR Congo.

“We have 700 children aged between 5 and 17 years at the Nyakabade refugee transit camp who lost contact with their families. We are trying to trace their parents,” he said.

The children lost contact following fierce fighting in Rutshuru territory between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and M23 rebels.

Nuwamanya said in addition to feeding, providing accommodation and health services, authorities are also providing psycho-social services to the children.

Some have special needs and need special care, he said, adding vulnerable adults equally need special support.

UNICEF expressed grave concern Saturday about the recent attacks on civilians which resulted in the deaths of four children.

Since the end of March, more than 158,000 people, half children, have been displaced in Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories as a result of armed clashes, UNICEF said in a statement.

Some fled to Uganda, while others sought refuge in churches, schools and makeshift accommodations in Rutshuru territory.

About 41,000 displaced children between the ages of 3 and 17 are currently out of school and nearly 29,000 are deprived of education because schools are occupied by displaced people, according to UNICEF.

“Children and families fleeing this terrifying escalation of violence in North Kivu need safety, shelter, food and water. Children are traumatized by the violence they witness and need psychosocial care. Despite the difficulties in accessing the affected areas due to the security situation, UNICEF has been able to provide a front-line response to displaced families and we will scale up our assistance in the coming weeks,” said Jean Metenier, UNICEF coordinator for the eastern DR Congo.

Since March 28, violence has displaced thousands in DR Congo, where more than 30,000 people recently fled to Uganda, according to the Red Cross.

Pamela Ongoma, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’ (ICRC) Restoring Family Links program in the DR Congo said the group and the Red Cross Society set up free telephone service for people who have been separated from their loved ones.

The DR Congo accuses Kigali of backing M23 rebels in renewed fighting, allegations Rwanda denies.

But the DR Congo announced Friday it will not participate in the 47th session of the Parliamentary Assembly of La Francophonie (APF) scheduled for July in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, under the circumstances.

Andre Mbata, the second vice-president of the National Assembly of DR Congo, made the announcement in Morocco at the closing of the Parliamentary Assembly of the APF-Africa Region.

Meanwhile, seven people were reported killed Friday in North Kivu in an attack attributed to Uganda’s Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).