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World >

DRC children ‘affected for life’

by Paul Wilkinson

Posted: 17 Jan 2014 @ 12:22


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ONE THIRD of children in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo will potentially suffer lifelong after-effects from the continuing violence in their country, an investigation by the Christian charity World Vision suggests.

The report No One To Turn To found that frequently suffering or seeing graphic and brutal violence could alter children's brain structure, increasing the risk of mental illness, and heart, liver, and lung disease in adulthood. Children who regularly witnessed vicious episodes believed them to be the norm. The report suggests that similar effects could be happening in other conflict zones such as Syria and the Central African Republic.

World Vision, which is active in the region, called on the DRC government and MONUSCO (the UN stabilisation mission in the DRC) to strengthen national child-protection systems, enforce an agreement ending the recruitment of child soldiers, ensure that no one escapes retribution for sexual violence and other violations of children's rights, and to implement plans to disarm and disband a variety of armed groups.

It also asked government and private donors to support child-protection systems, initiatives to end child recruitment, sexual violence, and child-rights violations, and to support projects promoting cross-border peace, stability, and economic integration.

Frances Charles, the advocacy manager for World Vision in eastern DRC, where more than 1.5 million people have fled their homes, said: "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. It is heartbreaking.

"They usually witness unspeakable horrors, and have no home or family to turn to. We know how vital it is that they receive support, protection, and loving, caring relationships now so as to prevent permanent damage as they grow."

One 14-year-old, Laini, told the researchers: "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."

Mapendo, who is 16, said: "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."


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