By Pascal Mulegwa
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo (AA) - More than 800,000 children have been forced to leave their homes due to conflict between the army and militia groups in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday.
"The DRC is facing one of the biggest child displacement crises in the world," the UN agency said in a statement.
The 800,000 displacements are in the South Kivu and Tanganyika provinces, UNICEF said, adding that $65 million was needed to assist these children in the next six months.
"Children in eastern DRC continue to suffer the devastating consequences of these waves of violence which destabilize the region," said Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF representative in the DRC. ''Hundreds of thousands of children in the region no longer have access to health care and education."
Children are also recruited by armed groups to fight, according to the UN agency.
UNICEF said thousands of children are at risk of severe malnutrition as violence prevents communities from reaching their farms.
The agency called on all parties involved in the conflict to guarantee access to humanitarian aid for those in urgent need of assistance.
At least 400,000 children in the conflict-ridden Kasai region of the DRC could starve to death, UNICEF said last December.
The country has seen several protests as opposition parties blame Joseph Kabila of avoiding elections, and extending his term through illegal means.
There are several militia groups in eastern DRC that often attack villages, stealing food, medicine and other property.