MISSISSAUGA, ON, Jan. 14 2014 /CNW/ - Children in eastern Congo experience disturbing levels of violence and fear, a new report by aid agency World Vision finds.
- More than a third (38 per cent) of children interviewed for No One To Turn To said they were scared all the time or on a daily basis.
- 36 per cent had experienced or witnessed violence first hand, often extreme and graphic in nature.
- More than 1.5 million people have fled their homes in eastern DRC, and almost every child World Vision interviewed for the report (96 per cent) has been forced from their home, many more than once.
The continual violence, and their exposure to it, puts children at risk of permanent physical and psychological damage, the report warns. As the various parties to the conflict in the DRC negotiate, World Vision stresses that it's critical to prioritize the needs of children.
Quotes from children:
"I am always afraid since I was raped. Every time I hear a loud noise, like a plate dropping, it grabs my heart. I am always scared because there is always conflict," said Laini, 14.
"I heard gunshots and fled with my mother. I was ahead of my Mum and they killed her. Then, on the journey, two armed men raped me and I became pregnant," described Mapendo, 16.
"Armed men arrived. I saw them take adults and tie their arms and feet with their clothes, and then beat their heads with hammers," said Patrick, 12.
"We are most afraid of rape because it is not only by one person – it can be more than ten people or by armed men who have taken drugs, and we are just little girls," said Zabibu, 14.
Quotes from aid worker:
"The atrocities children spoke of – seeing their parents' killed, fleeing their home, being attacked – are committed so frequently that many regard it as a normal part of daily life," said Frances Charles, Advocacy Manager for World Vision in eastern DRC.
"There's a very real risk that children living in other conflict situations around the world, such as Syria and Central African Republic, are suffering in similar ways. Every time a bullet is fired, every time a new peak in the conflict hits, we know that these children are put at further risk of suffering long-term damage," said Charles.
The Congolese government and 10 regional African governments are now developing a plan of implementation for the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, an agreement signed last year that aims to bring an end to foreign backing of armed groups, support an overhaul of Congolese security and government services and improve relations between countries in the region.
The eastern Congo is one of six countries where World Vision is running Raw Hope programs that specifically address the needs of children and families living in unstable circumstances, many of whom are subjected to the horrific atrocities of conflict.
World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. Visit our News Centre at worldvision.ca
SOURCE World Vision Canada