News / Africa

UNICEF Ambassador Tells Tragic Congo Tale

From 12 to 22 February 2012, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow traveled to Chad and the DRC to promote expanded polio eradication efforts and to review other UNICEF-supported programs.
From 12 to 22 February 2012, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow traveled to Chad and the DRC to promote expanded polio eradication efforts and to review other UNICEF-supported programs.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Since the 1990s, armed groups have come and gone in the eastern DRC, leaving human tragedy in their wake. Millions have died and many thousands have been raped. And there’s no end in sight. UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow says the latest conflict involving M23 rebels is just another chapter in the region’s brutal history.


American actress Mia Farrow has seen some of Africa’s worst humanitarian crises, such as Darfur, as well as the DRC. She visited eastern Congo earlier this year.

“The people are traumatized from now decades of being attacked. The people are on the run,” she said.

It didn’t used to be that way.

“You have to imagine the setting, arguably the most beautiful country on Earth, with its mountains and fertile land and wealth of minerals. You put a seed in the ground there and it grows. And the people told me about the old days when they farmed and they had more than enough of everything. They would bring it to market and trade, and people lived very well. And they had their land and plenty to eat,” she said.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow gives a child a dose of vitamin A, to help boost immunity, during a UNICEF-sponsored immunization at the Majengo health center in Goma, capital of North Kivu Province.UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow gives a child a dose of vitamin A, to help boost immunity, during a UNICEF-sponsored immunization at the Majengo health center in Goma, capital of North Kivu Province.
x
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow gives a child a dose of vitamin A, to help boost immunity, during a UNICEF-sponsored immunization at the Majengo health center in Goma, capital of North Kivu Province.
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow gives a child a dose of vitamin A, to help boost immunity, during a UNICEF-sponsored immunization at the Majengo health center in Goma, capital of North Kivu Province.
But after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, elements of those responsible fled into what was then Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The region began to change as armed groups proliferated and competed. One of the more well-known of recent years is the Lord’s Resistance Army that originated in Uganda. Its leaders are wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Farrow said, “By 1998, there was an all-out war going on. And, as we know, it depended on who you listened to – five million is, I believe, the U.N. statistic of who’ve been killed. Others say seven million. Anyway you look at it, millions upon millions of civilians have perished since 1998.”

Rape is used frequently as a weapon of war in the eastern DRC. Farrow told the story of one woman.

“She talked of an ordinary morning. Her children were getting ready to go to school. Her husband was going out to the field. Militia entered her home, killed her husband and her children in front of her, raped her with a bayonet. Then pounded her legs to pulp and left her that way. She is now in one of the centers there where she is being helped minimally. She is in excruciating pain all the time. She can’t walk. She’s incontinent, rejected by what was left of her family,” she said.

She said that woman represents countless others.

“I visited with UNICEF a group that was on the run – displaced people – and they said every night militia came around five o’clock and raped people. And most recently, the night before, a one-month-old child had been raped. You go to one of the few health clinics that haven’t been plundered there – the fistula surgery is ongoing day and night,” she said.

Fistula is often associated with obstructed and prolonged childbirth. A hole or fistula forms between the birth passage and the bladder or rectum. The woman becomes incontinent and may be shunned by her family and community. Fistula is also caused by rape and is often accompanied by other physical and psychological trauma. Sometimes surgery cannot repair the damage.

As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Farrow said she’s very concerned about the children of the DRC.

“Wherever you have vulnerable groups you have recruitment by militia – both boys and girls taken -- girls for sex slaves, boys to be used in combat -- and large numbers of children who had been separated from their parents. I spoke to a little boy in a center for child soldiers that had escaped or been captured. And most of them didn’t want to talk. But one little boy, after a lot of prodding, just burst into tears and said he missed his mom,” she said.

She also visited Bukavu in South Kivu Province, where there are many mines. The area is rich in minerals that people take advantage of everyday.

“They have children down in the mines because they’re just holes. They’re not like mines that have to pass any standard. They just dig holes and put children in the mines. The mines are forever collapsing, and children spend long backbreaking days pulling the stuff out that we all have in our cellphones – coltan, and tin or cassiterite, as well as diamond and gold,” she said.

She added that rebel groups use these mines to fund their operations.

“It’s said that these militias are also responsible for the greatest killing of elephants we’ve ever seen this year. But my immediate concern is the children. Though if you say elephants are being killed, you know, ironically people sometimes rally for elephants more quickly than for children,” she said.

Mia Farrow said some may argue it’s almost impossible to solve the DRC’s problems because they’re so enormous, and the country is remote. However, she says since so many around the world benefit from the country’s resources, they also have a responsibility to think about Congo’s people -- and demand action from their elected officials. 

Remember that woman who watched her family killed by rebels and who was raped and brutally beaten? She’s in a UNICEF-sponsored home with other rape victims.  They support themselves by raising their own food and selling crafts – and they teach other victims how to survive.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid