Children are at risk of sexual violence, with numerous incidents reported around the settlements in recent weeks. Interviewees said the risk of sexual violence was highest while collecting firewood (42%), fetching water (42%), on the way to school or while playing.
PIC Congolese nationals fleeing from the Mai Mai militias in Kivu region, DRC into Uganda. AFP photo
According to a new assessment by Save the Children, an independent child rights organisation, about 10% of the child refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were defiled during their journey to Uganda.
The assessment in which 132 refugee children aged 10-17 were interviewed also revealed that 81% of the children faced hunger, 53% fell sick while 27% said they were assaulted by armed groups as they fled.
Even after arriving in Uganda, children remain at risk of sexual violence, with numerous incidents reported around the settlements in recent weeks. Interviewees said the risk of sexual violence was highest while collecting firewood (42%), fetching water (42%), on the way to school or while playing.
Johnson Byamukama, Save the Children's emergency response director in Uganda, said: "The conflict in DR Congo is one of the world's forgotten crises. We see child refugees arriving in Uganda every day in dire need. Every one of them has a horrific story to tell, including of rape, parents being killed, or witnessing extreme violence."
According to a press release from Save the Children, despite the enormous need, the crisis in DRC and the refugee response in Uganda remain underfunded.
"On Friday donors at the DR Congo pledging conference in Geneva committed almost a third of the $1.68b needed to support the Humanitarian Response Plan," reads the press release.
Consequently, Save the Children is urging donors to dig deep and urgently increase funding for the regional crisis, including for psychological first aid and counselling support for the survivors of sexual violence.
"The size and scale of this devastating crisis is hard to fathom, and yet the world has not taken notice. It is time for donors to step up and give generously to support these children, who have had their childhoods ripped up before them. Uganda now hosts more refugees than anywhere else in Africa hence putting enormous pressure on the basic services, especially health and," Byamukama said.
So far this year, more than 73,000 refugees have fled the gruesome and escalating conflict in DRC to Uganda, including nearly 2,800 unaccompanied or separated children.