Women and children hardest hit among Congo refugees: UNICEF

Other News Materials 31 October 2008 20:51 (UTC +04:00)

Women and children caught up in the fighting in eastern Congo are in urgent need of help, the UN Children's Fund UNICEF said Friday,reported dpa.

More than a quarter-of-a-million refugees had fled the fighting in recent days between the Congolese army and rebels under the leadership of General Laurent Nkunda.

Many children had been separated from their parents, making them

more vulnerable to abuse, UNICEF said. There was also a danger of young boys being forcibly recruited by armed groups when they are displaced.

All sides of the Congolese conflict have been accused of using and forcibly recruiting child soldiers to work as porters and cooks and even frontline soldiers.

Another German relief group, Malteser International, said there increasing reports of women and girls being raped as they fled from the provincial capital of Goma.

Both organizations called on the warring parties to allow relief organizations unimpeded access to the refugees to provided urgently needed food and shelter.

The country was facing a humanitarian disaster, UNICEF and Malteser said.