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
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
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."