As peace process unfolds, children in eastern Congo live in fear, says new report

  • Aid agency finds more than one-third of children are scared all the time or every day
  • Lack of protection systems leave children vulnerable to lifelong consequences of conflict
  • Current peace process offers best chance of hope for children
  • More than a third of children surveyed describe experiencing or witnessing violence in eastern DRC in new report
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Children in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC) experience disturbing levels of violence and fear, a new report by aid agency World Vision finds.

More than a third (38 percent) of children interviewed for No One To Turn To said they were scared all the time or on a daily basis and 36 percent had experienced or witnessed violence first hand, often extreme and graphic in nature.

“It’s no surprise that this conflict is affecting children, but even we were shocked at the extent we found when we looked into it. It is heart breaking,” says Frances Charles, Advocacy Manager for World Vision in eastern DRC.

“The atrocities children spoke of – seeing their parents’ killed, fleeing their home, being attacked – are committed so frequently that many regard it as a normal part of daily life,” says Charles.

The continual violence, and their exposure to it, puts children at risk of permanent physical and psychological damage, the report warns.

“There’s a very real risk that children living in other conflict situations around the world, such as Syria and Central African Republic, are suffering in similar ways. Every time a bullet is fired, every time a new peak in the conflict hits, we know that these children are put at further risk of suffering long-term damage,” says Charles.

“They usually witness unspeakable horrors and have no home or family to turn to. We know how vital it is that they receive support, protection and loving, caring relationships now so to prevent permanent damage as they grow.”

More than 1.5 million people have fled their homes in eastern DRC, and almost every child World Vision interviewed for the report (96 percent) has been forced from their home, many more than once. But the organization believes another reality is possible.

“The situation is dire, but not hopeless,” says Charles. “Peace is the top priority, and 2014 presents one of the best chances for this that we’ve seen for a long time.”

The Congolese government and 10 regional African governments are now developing a plan of implementation for the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, an agreement signed last year that aims to bring an end to foreign backing of armed groups, support an overhaul of Congolese security and government services and improve relations between countries in the region.

“In the meantime, children need to be protected – by families or other caring adults, with the support of local organizations and ultimately the government. This report serves as a reminder for how important this is now more than ever.”

In Their Words
“I am always afraid since I was raped. Every time I hear a loud noise, like a plate dropping, it grabs my heart. I am always scared because there is always conflict,” said 14-year-old Laini.

“I heard gunshots and fled with my mother. I was ahead of my Mum and they killed her. Then, on the journey, two armed men raped me and I became pregnant,” described Mapendo, 16.

“Armed men arrived. I saw them take adults and tie their arms and feet with their clothes, and then beat their heads with hammers,” said Patrick, 12.

“We are most afraid of rape because it is not only by one person – it can be more than ten people or by armed men who have taken drugs, and we are just little girls,” said Zabibu, 14.

END

About World Vision
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.WorldVision.org/press or on Twitter at @WorldVisionNews.