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Dozens killed as shell explosions hit IDP camp in DR Congo

Shells have hit a displacement camp in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) killing an unconfirmed number of people, including children.

Save the Children, an international charity organisation, said its officials witnessed the incident while distributing hygiene kits at the camp outside of Goma on Friday.

Citing community reports, the charity organisation, said about 40 people were killed while many were injured.

Save the Children said it had not independently verified the number and added that all its workers and local partners are accounted for.

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“The reports from the camp are horrifying. Dozens of civilians have been injured, some have lost limbs. Most of those injured are women and children,” Greg Ramm, country director for Save the Children in the DRC, said.

“Some of our staff and partner staff were briefly trapped inside the camp before quickly getting out to safety.

“However, thousands of children and families living in the camps do not have the same privilege of being able to leave for somewhere safer. A tent does not offer much protection from shelling.

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“What happened today is another grim reminder that the DRC continues to be one of the most dangerous places to be a child, and children and the most vulnerable are bearing the brunt of this crisis.”

Fighting has intensified in recent weeks between DRC government forces and the M23 armed group – the most prominent of more than 100 armed groups reported to be active in the resource-rich region, which has been at the epicentre of multiple conflicts since the 1990s.

Civilians are bearing the brunt, with some 7.2 million displaced from their homes, many of them multiple times.

The escalating conflict is also driving record levels of gender-based violence, displacement and hunger, threatening to push the country to the brink of catastrophe.

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“Protection of civilians, especially children and families living in displacement camps, must be prioritised and support must be scaled up,” Rama said.

“More needs to be done, now, to reduce the use of these devastating weapons, especially so close to where children and their families are sheltering for safety.”

Save the Children called for all parties to the conflict to end the use of explosive weapons in the proximity of populated areas and ensure aid workers have an immediate, sustained and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief.

 

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