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CHILDREN IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO AND BURUNDI


DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

In 1998, nine African nations and an estimated 20 armed groups erupted into a war which was often coined the  “African World War”. The groups or militias involved in this war had an especially devastating impact on the African communities. These groups kill, rape, steal, torture, and burn residents’ homes. Many children are born into violence and do not know their parents, others flee their communities, as is currently the case in the Eastern Congo. There are more than 200,000 refugees, despite the efforts of government and UN Forces. Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, fighting continues in the east of the country. In eastern Congo, the prevalence of rape and other sexual violence is described as the worst in the world. The war is the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II, killing about 5.4 million people since 1998 to now.

Devastated by armed groups, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a country where being a child can hurt. They experience the multiple traumas of: malnutrition, sexual violence, infantry soldier, and homelessness. The categories below provide deeper insight into the struggles these children live with everyday.

Street children

This problematic is principally localized in Kinshasa (capital city of DRC). However, street children are also in all other regions of DRC. The number of street children is now estimated at 70,000, this reveals the dramatic situation they are living in.

The middle age of those children is 12 years old and a crescent part of them are is that situation because they are point out to be sorcerer children.

Sorcerer children

The practice of sorcery in DRC can lead to family breakdown as parents will remove suspected children from their home. When the child shows “symptoms of strange behavior” (restless sleep, quick temper, extreme changes in appetite) and if a spiritual authority confirms that the child is practicing sorcery the child will be attacked and chased away. This results in children living on their own and supporting themselves in child labor, through begging, or entering into prostitution.

Poverty

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world because 70% of its population lives under the poverty line.  The majority of Congolese live on less than two dollars a day while the average national incomes is approximately $160 per year.

Health

Health care access for treatment and prevention remains elusive  as hospitals usually lack the funding to treat patients or educate the community.Such service gaps led to the polio reappearance in DRC requiring a great vaccination campaign made by the world heath organization for 12,000,000 of children under than 5 years old.

Generally the health of this nation is very poor. The death rate of children in DRC is a staggering 199% and the life expectancy (48 years old) is one of the least recorded in the world.

DRC is also characterized by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS with a scarcity of medication. This disease results in about 930,000 children living as orphans. These children  who have been deparented by the illness often move to the streets and live high risk lives which will likely lead to the continuation of the cycle of transmission, early death, and child abandonment.

Education

Primary education in DRC is not free. Costs of schooling are nearly equal to the annual income of a wage earner, consequently less children are schooled.

Among adults, more than half of the population has never been schooled nor has ever advanced beyond primary school. Only 50% of children between 6 and 11 years old attend primary school.

Infantry Soldiers

Wars which take place in DRC affect mainly children who are the first victims.

Persistent conflicts in DRC led to the children’ enlistment in armed groups. These Congolese children are frequently captured after their parents were murdered by the armed groups and forced into military camps, where they are trained to use weapons.

They become infantry soldiers obliged to commit crimes against the population even sometimes against their own families.

About 35% of fighters presents in DRC are children. For those children, the only education they receive comes from war and violent, dangerous, bloodstained environments. It would take great interventions to steer these children away from a life of destruction to one that is productive.

Sexual Violence

One of dramatic consequences of armed conflicts in DRC is the practice which is nowadays neglected may it be for women, children or men. The sexual violence practice in this armed conflict is distinguished from others by it frequency and viciousness.

The United Nations has recognized rape as a strategy and weapon of war. Militias in the DRC have also including this tactic to gain advantages and break their enemies. In the wake of these assaults children are traumatized

Children are traumatized by those dreadful rape but less sanitary and Legal installations are made. This lack of structure prevent children to denounce those actions and to get reparation.

Those rapes which lead to emotional and psychological traumas also place the victims at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

On top of being victims of sexual violence, young Congolese girls may be forced to prostitute themselves to survive.

Forced Migration

During wars, children are the first victims and see themselves compelled to move in order to avoid the enlistment in armed groups and violence exerted by the latters.

These forced moving prevent children to have proper food, and access to education. So they become vulnerable to malnutrition and illnesses.

BURUNDI

After independence, Burundi went through political and ethnic crisis that had made more than 300,000 victims. The 1993 civilian war that lasted 10 years was a tragedy for children because a lot of them lost their parents or attended to their relatives persecution. Having no support, most of them roam in streets. As they do not go to school they are exposed to delinquency. They are devoid of accommodation, clothes, food: They eat less or they do not eat every day and face serious health problems. Rape had been used like a war weapon during trouble periods the country went through, the HIV epidemic found a favorable ground for its propagation.

In Burundi, there are 3 categories of orphans. Some are orphan because of war, others because of HIV and others because of the extreme poverty that threatens households.

Burundi is this way one of those countries in the world, that proportionally to its population, counts most orphans and vulnerable children. The country numbers currently about 650,000 orphans, about 17% of children from 0-16 years old according to the CNLS report in 2005.

Among those orphans,240,000 the equivalent of 37% are orphans of HIV. As for other categories of children in difficult situation, we may cite street kids, forsaken children by their families because of psychic problems, or because of poverty and undesirable pregnancies, infantry soldiers, children in prisons, moving children, repatriated children without forgetting traumatized children because of various facts they undergo.

Despite all that, the Burundian state took measures aiming to ameliorate life condition of children, and international commitment. Burundi particularly signed with the convention relative to children’ rights in 1990, the African charter of children rights and subscribed to commitments relative to the children protection, coming from the extraordinary united nations’ assembly dedicated to the child that took place in May 2003 in New York. All those convention to which Burundi subscribed insist on the obligation of countries to protect and assist vulnerable’ children, particularly in what concerns their right of social and juridical recognition, their schooling, et their health care.

Besides, the national solidarity ministry department, the one of repatriation, the national reconstruction, the human right and the one of gender in the Burundian government, adopted on September 24th ,2008 a national politics in favor of orphans and other vulnerable children(national politics in favor of orphans and other vulnerable children, adopted by the September 24th ,2008 cabinet.)

However, that reduces only the orphans number in the country because a lot of children continue to live nowadays without support and someone to take them in charge.