The UN estimates that between three and five million people have died since 1998 as a result of the conflict in DRC. As many as 30,000 Congolese children are thought to have been fighting or living with armed forces or militia. Many children have been displaced, brutally raped, mutilated and killed.
The recruitment of children is not unique to the Democratic Republic of Congo. At any given time, it is estimated that up to 250,000 children are being used in armed groups and forces around the world in a variety of roles – including as combatants, cooks, porters, messengers, spies and for sexual purposes. As primary victims of armed conflict, children are both its targets and, increasingly, its instruments.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo and in other conflict-affected countries, UNICEF helps support the release of children from armed groups and forces, and their return to their families and communities. To facilitate reintegration, UNICEF works with governments, NGOs and communities to provide children with vocational training, education, psychological and peer-to-peer support, along with legal assistance and health care.
On 5 and 6 February, in Paris, the Government of France and UNICEF will co-host a conference of Government Ministers to “Free Children from War”. Countries from all regions of the world, international organizations and NGOs will discuss comprehensive strategies for the prevention of child recruitment and the reintegration of former child soldiers.
UNICEF is on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information, please contact:
Geoff Keele, UNICEF Media, 212 326-7583, firstname.lastname@example.org