KINSHASA - Senior official with the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, appealed on Monday for urgent action to support diplomatic and long-term solutions to address the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Concluding a five-day visit to the region, UNICEF Deputy Director Ted Chaiban noted that fighting has reached new heights and created the worst humanitarian crisis there since 2003.

He highlighted growing concerns for safeguarding children’s rights and protection of civilians as the situation worsens.

Grave violations mount

“Children are being killed, maimed, abducted, and recruited by armed groups with verified grave violations the highest-ever; their rights to education and a safe childhood have been shattered,” he said.

UNICEF warned that the all-time high of 7.2 million internally displaced persons in eastern DRC could further spiral as armed groups take control of ever more territory, and as fighting spreads.

These developments are occurring at the same time as the UN peacekeeping mission, begins to depart from the country.

“We are seeing growing numbers of children killed and wounded with the recent shift to the use of heavier and sophisticated arms,” Mr. Chaiban said.

While in the region he met with Congolese authorities and visited sites hosting thousands of displaced families.

“The only way to reduce this suffering is to double down on efforts by regional actors and the international community to negotiate a political solution to the conflict, including the Luanda process, Nairobi dialogue and other diplomatic efforts,” he said.