Every day 1,200 people, half of them children, are killed in the conflict-hit Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) because of violence, disease and malnutrition, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a report issued today.
The report, Child Alert: DRC, also states that more children under age five die each year in the African country than in China - a country with 23 times the population. It draws attention to the to the appalling fact that the total countrywide death toll every six months is similar to that for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed more than 230,000 people in 12 countries.
Despite such grim statistics, the author of the report, UNICEF UK Ambassador for Humanitarian Emergencies Martin Bell, says that Sunday's landmark elections in the war-ravaged country could be a turning point.
"It is easy to be overwhelmed by what has happened in DRC because of the sheer scale of it. But we owe it to the children to give them the future they deserve and these elections may be the opportunity of their lifetime."
UNICEF says that around four million people have been killed in the almost decade-long conflict in the DRC, making it the world's deadliest, humanitarian crisis, but despite the scale of the suffering it has not received the attention it deserves.
"Children bear the brunt of conflict, disease and death, but not only as casualties," said UNICEF DRC Representative Tony Bloomberg, who attended the report's launch in London. "They are also witnesses to, and sometimes forced participants in, atrocities and crimes that inflict physical and psychological harm."
"While DRC has experienced death rates like that of the tsunami every six months, it has not received the attention it deserves, either from the media or the public. UNICEF issued this report to call attention to this hidden emergency and its impact on children. We stand ready to work with the elected government and all other actors to begin immediately improving the lives of Congo's children."
"Before you buy that next piece of gold and diamond jewelry for your loved ones or for yourself, remember these images of the laborers and slaves who suffered to extract, cut, and polish that beautiful jewel from the jungle," writes Bill at Jewels in the Jungle - Diamonds are not a girl's best friend
Help save lives by supporting the rule of law and justice, transparency in the diamond and gold mining industries and trade, fair wages, and humane working conditions for the people shown in these photo essays.
It takes only weeks for a diamond, once uncovered in an African mine, to travel to India to be cut and polished and land in the showrooms of Paris or New York. The journey reveals some of globalization’s greatest fault lines—inequality, child labor, and outsourcing—and the people who too often fall through the cracks.
How to help:
Doctors on Call For Service DOCS, a Christian non-profit organisation working in Africa since 1994.