· There are already reports of children being armed
· World Vision appeals to international leaders to save children from violence
· World Vision staff forced to evacuate as threat from violence increases
In Goma, DRC, World Vision predicts that two hundred thousand children under 18 years old are at risk of being forced to become soldiers. Reports from UNICEF suggest that 600 children have already been separated from their families and are now at risk of serious child abuse.
The threat from rebel violence has caused many families to flee their living quarters and set up home in temporary campsites. World Vision partners have reported that the confusion caused by the upheaval has led to children becoming separated from their parents, with potentially devastating effects.
From the border town of Ginsenye, Dominic Keyzer of World Vision states, “We know from the recent practices of the groups involved in this latest fighting that unaccompanied children in this part of DRC are in immediate and real danger of forcible recruitment into armed groups…”
Isolated from people who can protect them, Keyzer reports first-hand accounts from children that their friends have been given guns and order to fight the rebels.
Keyzer goes on to say that peace needs to be the focus for all parties and leaders. He emphasizes that for these “…children, who are already at the bottom of the ladder in terms of mortality, education, and resilience, this latest crisis means even more unimaginable violence and trauma.”
World Vision calls on the Government of DRC and regional leaders to make sure all parties involved in the clashes honour their duties under international humanitarian law, and urges international leaders and politicians to take steps to halt the mounting crisis. A powerful first action would be to reactivate the African Union-UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes area.
World Vision is calling for the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to take steps to avoid crisis and engage with the different parties in these hostilities. All those involved must end the use of children in armed conflict and cease targeting children in this violence.
Keyzer summarises that “The effects of this are just heart-breaking – many children in eastern DRC have grown up with violence and uncertainty for the last 20 years…constant displacement exposes them to further risks, and undermines any positive developments that have occurred,” said Keyzer.
At the heart of this crisis is the on-going violence that prevents international aid organisations from intervening to protect children. Major, life-saving operations by World Vision and other NGOs have been forced into suspension in certain eastern areas of DRC, as workers are unavoidably evacuated.
Please contact Chris Weeks: +447515975482 or Kayla Robertson: +7887457229 to organise interviews with Dominic Keyzer in Gisenye, or visit the website for more information on the DRC crisis - https://www.worldvision.org.uk/