News / Africa

Armed DRC Militias Pose Risk for Children

A Congolese boy walks towards Kibati, north of Goma, DRC, after being told to do so for his safety by M23 rebel fighters, November 27, 2012.
A Congolese boy walks towards Kibati, north of Goma, DRC, after being told to do so for his safety by M23 rebel fighters, November 27, 2012.
Henry Ridgwell
Thousands of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are at extreme risk of sexual violence, kidnapping and being forced to join armed militias, according to aid agencies. The recent upsurge in conflict in the eastern part of the country has led to many families being separated as they flee the violence - and aid workers are trying to reunite lost children with their parents before it’s too late,

A family seperated

When rebels attacked their village, siblings Imani, Anicet, Baraka and Kibonge - who is just four years old - were forced to flee into the surrounding forests.

Their parents were out getting food. When their mother Josephine returned, the children were gone. She spoke with representatives of the aid agency Save the Children and describes her despair.

 “I was scared that hunger and disease would strike them," she explains. "Because they were alone and had nowhere to go, I was so worried that they could be affected by all the evil things around.”

Thousands of Lost Children at Risk of Sexual Violence in DRCi
|| 0:00:00
X
December 28, 2012 7:58 PM
Aid agencies say thousands of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are at extreme risk of sexual violence, kidnapping and being forced to join armed militias. The recent upsurge in fighting in the eastern part of the country has led to many families being separated as they flee the violence -- and aid workers are trying to reunite lost children with their parents before they become victims. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.

The parents fled to a refugee camp and began the search for their children. With the help of Save the Children, they were found close to their village - and the family was reunited.

"When I was separated from my mother, I felt so unwell - it was even difficult to eat," their 10-year-old son Anicet says, recounting the ordeal. "Now that I am here with my parents, I feel so much better than before."

Aid agency support

Aid agencies estimate almost a million people have been displaced in the North Kivu region of DRC by the upsurge in violence between rebels known as the M23 and government forces.

M23 is made up of former rebels who were integrated into the Congolese army but then deserted earlier this year, complaining of discrimination and poor treatment.

In recent weeks, the rebels have made advances  - even occupying the regional capital Goma in November before withdrawing almost two weeks later.

Save the Children has identified 923 separated children in the worst hit areas, and there are probably thousands more in settlements across North Kivu, says spokesperson Katie Seaborne.

“Often in the chaos when families are leaving, children become separated from their families. They’re at extreme risk and we can only imagine how terrifying that must be for children," she explains.

Sexual violence

Seaborne says the children are especially vulnerable to sexual violence and many could be forced to become child soldiers in the conflict.

Aid workers for the Red Cross say they have found very young children next to their parents’ lifeless bodies or wandering alone by the side of the road. The agency is also working to reunite families - which often involves days or weeks of searching and journeys of hundreds of kilometers.

Nadine Kanyere found her youngest son Ushindi in Goma two weeks ago after they were separated in an attack.
 
She says she feels alive again, with her children around her.  She says their absence almost killed her. But she doesn't know where to go from here.

Life in the refugee camps remains tough and at times dangerous. Rebels often try to steal aid.

For some families, the stories of terror and flight have a happy ending. But there are hundreds, if not thousands more children who have been forced to flee - and are now alone in the midst of a brutal conflict.

You May Like

British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign Jihadists More

Audio Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid