DR Congo

DRC: Children Still Paying Highest Price of Conflict; Parties Should Strengthen Engagement with the UN to End and Prevent All Grave Violations

New York, 15 November 2022- The children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continue to endure a disturbingly high number of grave violations as a result of conflict, including an intensification of armed activities by a growing number of armed groups, particularly in Ituri and North Kivu. The realities of children in the DRC continues to be one characterised by violence and instability, in which their rights are not being realised, despite a decrease in the total number of grave violations against children compared to the previous reporting period, a new Secretary-General Report on children and armed conflict in the DRC released today shows.

As outlined in the report, numbers remain outrageously high in the DRC, which continues to be the situation with the highest annual verified violations against children in armed conflict. A total of 7,616 grave violations against 6,073 children were verified and attributed to 78 parties to conflict between April 2020 and March 2022. At least 1,249 children were victims of multiple violations, with children abducted in order to be recruited and used, and then killed or maimed while associated, or forced to endure sexual violence. Ninety-three percent of all violations were attributed to armed groups.

The reporting period was largely marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and related responses as well as other public health emergencies, a context during which the implementation of key activities of the United Nations in the country was seriously hampered. The actual number of violations is therefore believed to be even higher.

"No less than 6,073 children endured at least one grave violation. This is simply appalling. Children in the DRC are enduring intolerable levels of violence, and I call on the Government and on armed groups to strengthen their engagement with the United Nations to end and prevent all grave violations against children and hold perpetrators accountable," said the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.

The decrease in the overall number of grave violations compared to the previous report (9,957) is largely explained by a diminished number of children recruited and used, though it remains the highest verified violation with 3,901 children affected. Abduction and sexual violence against children were the two other most verified violations with 1,548 and 944 children, respectively. While armed groups remain the main perpetrators, sexual violence by Government forces continues to be a source of serious concern despite the action plan signed with the United Nations in 2012.

On the other hand, the killing and maiming of 929 children and attacks on schools and hospitals with 281 incidents witnessed the sharpest increases of over 200 per cent, respectively, compared to the previous reporting period. Military operations, confrontations between parties, attacks on civilian communities and inter-communal violence, all took a heavy toll on children, and the Special Representative calls on all parties to refrain from targeting civilians during military activities, especially children, and to take all necessary measures to protect boys and girls from the effects of their activities and operations.

Engagement and Progress for Children

The continued commitment of the Government to consolidate the gains of its action plan of 2012 and to sustainably prevent the recruitment and use of children by its armed and security forces continues to positively benefit children. The joint screening mechanisms of the FARDC and the United Nations in FARDC recruitment and training camps to prevent the enlistment of children continued to be instrumental in the protection of children.

At least 3,901 children were separated from armed groups in different ways during the reporting period, including following UN advocacy. The Special Representative calls on all armed groups to release all children from their ranks with immediate effect, including through dialogue, the signing of action plans or unilateral commitments and roadmaps, and hand them over to civilian child protection actors so they can urgently access comprehensive, long-term, and sustainable reintegration programmes with gender- and age-appropriate services.

"Children released from armed groups must be supported in their reintegration so they can rebuild their lives. I urge the Government and the international community to ensure the needs of these children are met, including through political and financial support for reintegration programmes," emphasized the Special Representative.

She welcomes efforts by the Government to hold perpetrators of recruitment and use, sexual violence and other grave violations against children accountable, including through the prosecutions of suspected perpetrators among members of the Government armed and security forces. Furthermore, trainings on conflict-related sexual violence were conducted by the United Nations with the FARDC, as they remained listed for rape and other forms of sexual violence against children in the annexes of the report of the UN Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (S/2022/493).

"I encourage the Government to accelerate the implementation of all aspects of its 2012 action plan related to sexual violence against children. The United Nations will continue to support the Government to end and prevent all grave violations against children, including through its dedicated child protection teams in the country, to which I want to express my gratitude for their commitment to conflict-affected children," Virginia Gamba concluded.

Overview of grave violations

Recruitment and use (3,901)

Killing and maiming (929)

Sexual violence (944)

Abduction (1,548)

Attacks on schools and hospitals (281)

Denial of humanitarian access (13)

For additional information, please contact:

Fabienne Vinet, Communications Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

+1-212-963-5986 (office) / +1-917-288-5791 (mobile) / vinet@un.org

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