· Risk of children being re-recruited to armed groups
· DRC meeting at UN General Assembly must tackle issues facing children
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 – More than a year after violence erupted in the Kasai region of Democratic Republic of Congo, World Vision says complacency means children continue to suffer.
“It is children who are suffering the first and most here,” said Catilin Hannahan, Advocacy Manager for Kasai Response. “They are direct victims of violence, and are being pulled into it, but they are also feeling its wider effects.
“What’s happening in the Kasais is not business as usual. This is an area of the country which had previously been relatively stable and peaceful, and communities are heartbroken to see their region descend into levels of violence - particularly against children – which have not been seen before in the DRC.
More than 1.4 million people in the Kasais have fled their homes over the past year. In the last two weeks of August alone, 30,000 people fled for safety. With millions affected, World Vision’s concern is with those children left extremely vulnerable by the crisis, lacking access to the basics of life but also to the protection that is their only hope against being forced into the fighting.
“We have huge fears that former child soldiers will rejoin armed groups without better alternatives or hope.
“Children we’ve spoken to, who have fled fighting forces, tell terrifying stories of horror no child should witness. Parents say small children keep waking up in the middle of the night screaming, feeling like they’re being attacked again. A 13-year-old child in Tshimbulu, where we’re opening a child friendly space, has been reduced to an almost non-verbal state due to the stresses of the conflict and is currently unable to interact with other children. It’s these factors that prevent communities from rebuilding and children returning to normal lives.
They need to see some pretty quick benefits from grassroots interventions that protect them from further harm and improve their physical, emotional and mental health. It’s all lacking right now; psychosocial care and psychological first aid.
“What these children need and deserve is peace. Effective local level mediation and peacebuilding provided by the government, and partners. Failure to do this will hinder the prospects of peace. What is holding us up is access and funding. The government, local powerbrokers and the UN – so many of them meeting at the UN General Assembly today (Tuesday, September 19) – must ensure humanitarian agencies have access to the Kasai.
“Aid needs to be rapidly funded and provided to children and their communities to prevent an escalation of ethnic and tribal violence. Former child soldiers require support to get back into education, and families need assistance to rebuild destroyed homes. Without humanitarian assistance, conflict and suffering will undoubtedly continue.”
- World Vision has reached more than 28,000 people in the last month with food provided by the World Food Programme, and is continuing distributions with eight metric tons of high-energy biscuits to young children and pregnant mothers. We hope to reach a further 120,000 people in the more remote areas of Kasai in the next three months.
- World Vision is partnering with local organisations to support former child soldiers, and opening 6 Child Friendly Spaces to provide psychosocial care to displaced children, demobilised children, and other children affected by the conflict.
- Children World Vision has interviewed are reporting that the recruiters offered to pay their school fees. In the initial ceremony children are told that they are invisible to bullets, particularly the girls. While children are combatants, they are also very much the victims of this conflict as well. There are at least 500 confirmed cases of children being used as human shields, and 354 cases of sexual violence against children. There are reports of children as young as 5 in the militias.