|© UNICEF/HQ94-1109/ Press|
|In 1994 in Rwanda, a boy with a machete scar on the back of his head, caused by being attacked at the height of the civil conflict, stands with other children outside the Cyugaro primary school.|
On 7 April, 2004, the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, millions will observe a moment of silence to remember the victims.
As the world remembers the ten-year anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, the country’s children continue to live with the devastating affects of this brutal conflict.
When the genocide ended in 1994, 800,000 people had been murdered – 300,000 of these victims were children. In addition, 95,000 children had been orphaned.
Virtually all of Rwandan children witnessed unspeakable horror. Thousands of children were victims of brutality and rape, and thousands of children – some as young as seven – were forced into military operations and forced to commit violent acts against their will.
“The children of Rwanda witnessed unspeakable violence,” said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. “Tens of thousands lost their mothers and fathers. Thousands were victims of horrific brutality and rape. The impact of the tragedy simply cannot be overstated.”
Remembering the past; improving the future
Ten years later, the children of Rwanda are still suffering from the consequences of a conflict created exclusively by adults.
There are an estimated 101,000 children that are heading approximately 42,000 households. These children have lost parents for various reasons – many were murdered during the genocide, some have died from AIDS and others are in prison for genocide-related crimes.
UNICEF and its partners are helping a generation of Rwandan children reclaim their lives, especially in the areas of health, counselling and education:
Thousands of children – some younger than seven years old – were forced to join military operations during the conflict and forced to commit atrocities against their will. Not only do these children suffer emotional trauma from their experiences, many of them were imprisoned after the genocide.
“We are still accountable for supporting reconciliation and healing, and for ensuring that such atrocities never happen again,” said Bellamy. “‘Never again’ means holding perpetrators accountable and restoring the dignity by commemorating or alleviating their suffering.”