July 25, 2006
600 Children Die in Congo Every Day
With elections in DR Congo less than a week away, UNICEF issued a report yesterday stating 1,200 people are killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) every day because of violence, disease or malnutrition.
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.
This analogy is similar to the one made in the blog My Heart’s in Accra on how Western coverage is disproportionate to the Middle East conflict’s causalities in relation to Africa.
Nonetheless, UNICEF UK Ambassador for Humanitarian Emergencies Martin Bell, who wrote the report, said Sunday’s landmark elections 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,” said Bell.
However, several groups are planning to boycott the elections because they think the incumbent president Joseph Kabila (favored to win) has amassed resources to support his election and used intimidation as a political tool. BBC reported that the Roman Catholic Church said they would not recognise the results of the polls unless concerns about vote-rigging were addressed.
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 media attention it deserves.
The BBC ran a story yesterday as well on the UNICEF report which include information on the organization calling for DRC’s leaders to make children’s rights a top priority after the elections.