Armed groups kidnapping DRC children to fight

Children in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being forcibly recruited into armed groups as thousands flee to avoid violence.

World Vision reports that more than 50,000 people – the majority children and many of them unaccompanied - have recently crossed the borders from DRC into Rwanda and Uganda after fighting hampered aid work in the region.

“Children are hiding in the forest, and we know for certain that nearly two hundred children have been kidnapped by armed groups recently and forced to join in the fighting,” said World Vision Advocacy and Child Justice Manager, Australian Dominic Keyzer, in Goma. “Because of the difficult nature of collecting figures, we’re worried the number of children being lost to the fighting is much higher.”

World Vision Australia’s Head of Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs Anthea Spinks says children are not only vulnerable to violence, but also to malnutrition and disease.

World Vision is working with other aid groups and the UN to provide shelter, water, food and health care to refugees in Uganda and Rwanda.

“Once children escape the horrors of the DRC and reach refugee camps they should be safe, but the demand is almost overwhelming,” Ms Spinks says. “Ten children have survived fighting only to succumb to malnutrition. No child should be subjected to this.”

Forced recruitment into armed groups is just one of many of the risks children are facing as a result of the conflict, Ms Spinks says, with little or no access to clean water, food or health services - let alone school - exacerbating poverty and child deaths in DRC.

The DRC has suffered 20 years of fighting and unrest, but the government had started working to release some of the estimated 30,000 child soldiers – moves World Vision fears will be reversed if the surge in fighting continues to escalate.

“Building a lasting peace for children caught up in the conflict might be difficult, but needs to be a priority for everyone involved,” Ms Spinks says.

Donate to the World Vision Emergency Preparedness Fund.

 

Media contact: Kate Rose – 0418 528 683 / kate.rose@worldvision.com.au

 

 

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