The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has demobilized 880 children associated with armed groups in the volatile eastern province of North Kivu between 30 January and 2 March.
Madnodje Mounoubai, spokesperson for the mission, known by its French acronym MONUC, told a news conference in Kinshasa that the great majority of the 839 boys and 41 girls are Congolese, but there are also 31 Rwandans, two Burundians and two Ugandans.
The UN News Centre says all of the children were handed over to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for their return and reintegration into their families and communities, after they were demobilized by MONUC`s Child Protection Unit.
In early February, MONUC had separated 98 additional children from the various armed groups in North Kivu, where fighting between the Government army (FARDC), a mainly Tutsi militia known as the CNDP, Hutu groups and others has displaced some 250 000 civilians since last August.
The separation of children from armed forces and groups is one of MONUC`s priorities, within the framework of its support to the process of the accelerated integration of armed groups into the FARDC.
MONUC calls on all actors to continue to support its efforts in this area, "so that children are not sent to the front, and to allow all minors associated with armed groups to be able to reintegrate into civilian life as soon as possible," the mission said on its website.
Also at the news conference, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that attacks against humanitarians are on the increase in several parts of North Kivu, with five cases reported in January, 13 in February and four already in the first few days of March.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General`s Special Representative and head of MONUC, Alan Doss, has welcomed a new stabilization and reconstruction plan for the eastern DRC, which was agreed upon by local and international stakeholders under the auspices of the Congolese Prime Minister.
Doss specifically pledged to support the plan in the areas of security and the restoration of State authority.
In related news, a joint mission led by the UN Children`s Fund (UNICEF) has arrived in Katanga province, in the area of Ankoro, to address the issue of malnutrition. OCHA says that since September 2008, there have been nearly 1,200 cases of children suffering from acute malnutrition in Ankoro, a situation being compounded by population increases as well as malaria.
Also in Katanga, the World Health Organization (WHO) is supporting local efforts to treat a cholera epidemic.
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