GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo, 12 February 2010 – As the world celebrates the International Day against the use of Child Soldiers, UNICEF calls for the release of all children forcedly recruited into armed forces and groups in DRC, especially of young girls, where they are forced to be combatants, labor and sex slaves, suffering from violence and rape for months and sometimes years. Young girls are rarely released by armed forces and groups.
In Eastern DRC, where forced child recruitment and re-recruitment is continuous, only 20 per cent of children cared for by UNICEF and partners are girls. In 2009, the number of young girls released from armed groups and receiving support from UNICEF programs has increased but more efforts must be done to release more of these extremely vulnerable girls and to reunify them with their families.
“Children, boys or girls, should be with their family and not in a military environment,” reinforces Pierrette Vu Thi, UNICEF Representative in DRC. “All the children forcedly recruited in armed forces and groups, and especially young girls, are traumatized by their experience and need special attention. It is essential that they all live the life of a child.”
UNICEF is taking all necessary measures to put an end to forced recruitment of children in DRC. Since 2004, and the launch of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration program (DDR), Child protection actors have facilitated the release of 36.000 children formerly associated with armed forces and groups. In 2009, about 6,000 children have been demobilized in Eastern DRC at the time of the rapid integration process of armed groups into FARDC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo).
Identification and demobilization of children, medical, psychosocial and educational support are coordinated on the field and in Kinshasa in order to put an end to this grave violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to ensure protection and well being to the children.
Efforts from the DRC government should be congratulated with the adoption of the 10th January 2009 law, which prohibits the recruitment of children into armed forces and groups. Recruiters face 20 years of imprisonment for recruiting children. The law is an important step against the use of child soldiers, but children remain enrolled in armed groups and forces in the East. All the parties to the conflict, of which a large part is now integrated in the national army, are responsible for the forced recruitment of children into armed forces and groups.
UNICEF along with its partners, MONUC, Save the Children, COOPI and other non-governmental organizations, is putting in place mobile teams and transit centers across the country. All these actors advocate with chiefs and commandants to release as many children as possible from armed forces and groups, with a special attention to young girls.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 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 more information, please contact :
Pierrette Vu Thi, Tel + (+243 81 88 467 46)
Felix Ackebo, Tel +(243 8305901) firstname.lastname@example.org;
Tasha Gill, Tel + (+243 081 880 1649) email@example.com;
Judith Sarano, Tel (+243) 81 830 5933, firstname.lastname@example.org