The Democratic Republic of Congo is on track to see record numbers of children killed, maimed, kidnapped or sexually assaulted in 2023 for the third consecutive year, the UN said on Saturday.
The number of “grave violations against children” in the conflict-racked country is estimated to be more than 1,700 for the first half of 2023, said UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency — which marks a 41 percent increase on the same period last year.
The agency puts the increased number down to “intensifying violence, massive displacement, and proximity of armed groups to communities… leading to an alarming increase in cases of killing, maiming, and abduction of children”.
If current trends continue, it said the country will pass the record set in 2022.
The number of children recruited and used by armed groups increased by 45 percent in the first six months of the year to around 1,100, while more than 400 children were killed or mutilated in that period.
The UN agency warned that rape and sexual violence against children were also on “an upward trajectory”.
“I met children who survived the horrors of recruitment and use by armed groups and the unspeakable trauma of sexual violence -– atrocities that no-one should experience, let alone children,” said Sheema Sen Gupta, the director of child protection at UNICEF, during a week-long mission to the DRC.
“These harrowing stories underscore the urgency for the government to intensify its efforts to safeguard civilians –- especially the most vulnerable, the country’s children.”
UNICEF said it has received only 11 percent of the funds required for its child protection response as part of its emergency appeal for eastern DRC.
It had already warned earlier this month that children in the DRC were facing unheard-of violence, saying there were “few worse places, if any, to be a child”.