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

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid