World Vision shares new reportChildren in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) face disturbing levels of violence and fear, according to a World Vision report that is based on interviews with more than 100 children. “No One To Turn To” reports that more than a third (36 percent) of children had experienced or witnessed violence first hand, often extreme and graphic in nature, and 38 percent were scared on a daily basis.
“It’s no surprise that this conflict is affecting children, but even we were shocked at the extent we found when we looked into it,” said Fran Charles, advocacy manager for WV DRC. “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.”
Children shared their experiences in the interviews:
“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 14-year-old Laini.
“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 16-year-old Mapendo.
“Armed men arrive. I saw them take adults and tie their arms and feet with their clothes, and then beat their heads with hammers,” said 12-year-old Patrick.
“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 14-year-old Zabibu.
The continual exposure to violence puts children at risk of permanent physical and psychological damage. Many children who have witnessed unspeakable horrors have no home or family to turn to.
Current peace processes, led by United Nations Special Envoy Mary Robinson, offer one of the best avenues of hope for children.
“The situation is dire, but not hopeless,” said Ms. Charles. “Peace is the top priority, and 2014 presents one of the best chances for this than we’ve seen for a long time. “In the meantime, children need to be protected – by families or other caring adults, with the support of local organisations and ultimately the government.”
“No One To Turn To” looks at the impact of the region’s continual violence on children and makes recommendations for how governments can help.