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.
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

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Five-Nation Tour to Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of state will visit Egypt, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam to discuss security issues, Iran nuclear deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs