For more than a year, children have been living in fear of the violence in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A new World Vision survey indicates that 99 per cent of child respondents have been displaced because of conflict in the Kasai region. In most cases, children have been forced to flee for their lives several times.
“We fled into the forest; we spent two months there. We ate cassava leaves and palm nuts. We struggled to eat and we were sick,” Kanana, 10, said.
The violence coincides with a stark rise in malnutrition in Kasai - from 20 to 76 per cent of families now affected. It’s one of the many reasons why violence is the world's worst crime against children.
The UN estimates 60 per cent of people recruited to the militias are under the age of 18 and some as young as 5 years old.
The survey, Will You Hear Us? 100 children in DRC tell their story, shows that three-quarters of demobilised children who have returned home, worry about persecution and retaliation, while the effects of conflict still linger.
“I killed five soldiers and one time the fighting was really hard and I ran away. I didn’t want to kill people, but they made me,” 15-year-old Davide said. “The worst thing was seeing the dead bodies of people I knew.”
The survey also raises concerns about the lack of psychosocial support for survivors.
World Vision is working to end all violence against children and has reached almost 500,000 people in the Kasai region through food distributions, psychosocial support, water and hygiene programming. However, many more remain in desperate need of humanitarian aid and the response remains deeply underfunded. For example, the Financial Tracking Service shows the Humanitarian Response Plan’s education sector has received only 7.5 per cent of the funding required for the year.
“We need to stop the cycle of violence and to do that, we must have additional support for education. School gives children a future outside the militia but without education, access to psychosocial care or a job, their risk of re-recruitment in the militias is significantly higher,” World Vision DRC Country Director Anne-Marie Connor said.
The report recommends:
• The international community prioritise investment in psychosocial care
• Authorities recognise children caught up in conflict in the Kasai region must first and foremost be treated as victims and survivors of deeply distressing events, not as perpetrators or accomplices.
• Prevent future violence against children by creating a protective environment, ensuring
birth registration and strong local and national child protection measures.
• Long-term and multi-year funding to combat malnutrition and lack of education
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organisation dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.