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Thousands of children displaced by fighting in and around the city of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) risk recruitment to armed groups.
Thursday 22 November 2012
Tens of thousands of people have fled Goma as rebels took over the city on Tuesday.
Save the Children staff on ground report that children have been separated from their parents in the rush to escape the rebel advance, and could face recruitment from armed groups operating in the area.
“Any child separated in the rush to flee the fighting is at grave risk of being recruited by any one of several militias in the area,” said Rob MacGillivray, our country director in the DRC.
A team of Save the Children staff is poised to enter Goma as soon as the security situation allows vital humanitarian work to recommence.
As soon as it is safe to do so, we will provide life-saving medicines and health care, eduction and emotional support to children.
We will also distribute key household items to families who may have left their belongings behind when fleeing the violence.
Rob MacGillivray added: “We know that these groups have had few qualms about forcing children to join in the past and have no reason to suppose they will take a different approach now.
"The situation is extremely chaotic, with some families being displaced more than once, and we can only imagine how confused and frightened children caught up in this violence will be.”
Food running out
Save the Children is also deeply concerned that vulnerable families and children are unable to access healthcare and warns that food supplies are quickly running out.
An estimated 400,000 people live in Goma, and the surrounding area is home to another 300,000 displaced people, according to the UN.
Tens of thousands of people have already fled the area, with children particularly vulnerable.
“In any refugee crisis children face a range of risks, including separation from their families, abuse and exploitation, but the long-term insecurity in the eastern DRC means children are in a particularly dangerous situation,” MacGillivray continued.
“They may be alone in an area where armed groups often recruit children, have witnessed terrible things, and without basic supplies like food and clean water.
"We call all sides to ensure that children are offered the protection they are owed and that they can be reunited with their families as soon as possible.”
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