“Nothing can justify terrible acts of abuse against women and children in Kasai”: UNICEF

Statement attributable to Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa

DAKAR/NEW YORK/SYDNEY 7 August 2017 - "The world must not turn a blind eye to the dire situation of children and families in the Grand Kasai region. Over the past 12 months, more than 1.4 million people – including 850,000 children – have been forced from their homes, and their lives turned upside down by widespread acts of extreme violence.  
“Children and women tell us of terrible acts of abuse. Many children have been recruited by armed forces, drugged and caught in the violence.  
“Nothing can justify these actions. 
“The situation for children is getting worse, and families displaced by the conflict cannot access the most basic services. More than 200 health centres have been destroyed, and one in four health centres is no longer functioning normally. An estimated 400,000 children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition. 
“Children have lost a year of education, as hundreds of schools have been targeted and looted, teachers killed or fled for safety. Fear of violence means teachers are not able to go to work, while parents are scared to send their children to school. 
“All parties to the conflict must protect children, end grave violations against children, and preserve schools and health services. Humanitarian actors must have unhindered humanitarian access to affected populations so that we can reach all those in need of assistance. 
“Because of our long-term presence in the region and extensive network of local partners, UNICEF is responding to the escalating humanitarian needs, reaching more than 150,000 people affected by the crisis with nutrition, health, education, water and sanitation, direct cash grants and child protection interventions.  
“But unless this violence stops, our best work will never be enough. The lives of many thousands of children are at risk.”
Notes for editors:
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For more information, please contact:
Thierry Delvigne-Jean, UNICEF West and Central Africa, +221 77 819 2300, tdelvignejean@unicef.org
Sylvie Sona, UNICEF DRC, +243 81 70 96 215, nssona@unicef.org
Marixie Mercado, UNICEF Geneva, +41 79 559 7172, mmercado@unicef.org
Joe English, UNICEF New York, + 1 917 893 0692, jenglish@unicef.org
Charlotte Glennie, UNICEF Australia, +61420 407 886, cglennie@unicef.org.au