Tens of thousands of children who have been forcibly returned from Angola to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) need help urgently, UN Children's Fund UNICEF said on Tuesday.
The warning concerns at least 80,000 youngsters who are part of a more than 300,000-strong wave of people who have mostly arrived in DRC's troubled Kasais region since the start of the month.
'UNICEF estimates that among the returnees more than 80,000 are children, and these children are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance,' spokesperson Christophe Boulierac told journalists in Geneva.
The alert follows a warning by the UN's human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, that the forcible mass expulsion of Congolese migrants from Angola had resulted in 'serious human rights violations by security forces on both sides of the border'.
Some youngsters described having to leave Angola in a rush, after official efforts to reform the country's diamond mining industry, which reportedly also involved ethnic violence and the destruction of DRC migrant workers' homes.
In addition to suffering from hunger and bad weather, those expelled from Angola have also faced extortion at checkpoints along the country's border with DRC, UNICEF said in a statement.
The influx of so many people to the Kasais is particularly concerning because the once relatively peaceful region was gripped by deadly conflict between local and government forces in 2016 and 2017 that destroyed vital public services.
'There was a very, very serious crisis of malnutrition in Kasai and these children are coming in a very bad condition from Angola,' Mr Boulierac said, before adding that dangerously low levels of blood sugar - hypoglycaemia - had been diagnosed in some youngsters. 'Some of them are suffering from hypoglycaemia and...