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

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid