Saturday, August 9, 2008

Congo Children Ultimately Suffer

Children suffer more and different abuses than adults in many ways. A boy in Gbadolite, a town in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was killed recently when an object he was using as a hammer blew up in his face. It was a land mine, one of thousands abandoned in the DRC during the last ten years of war and rebellion.

Incidents like these are one of the long-term effects of war on children, a major theme in Heart of Diamonds.

The UN Refugee Agency in the DRC reports that 892 people have been killed and 1,118 injured by mines and UXO’s (unexploded ordnance) strewn across the countryside since 2001. Many of them were children, killed because they don’t know the difference between explosives and toys. Philippe Sondizi Dombale, head of Humanitas Ugbangi, an NGO in Molegbe, northern DRC, told the UN’s IRIN that five children died in Dongo when a grenade exploded as they were playing with it.

The DRC ratified the global anti-personnel mine ban treaty in 2002, but government armed forces are only one of many combatants across the country. The government also lacks resources to conduct the large-scale de-mining campaigns necessary to remove the menace. According to Mine Advisory Group (MAG) country director Marc Angibeaud, de-mining efforts through international NGOs such as MAG, Handicap International and DanChurchAid, have cleared the countryside of thousands of anti-personnel mines and UXO, especially in Equateur, Maniema, Katanga and South Kivu provinces, but they have only scratched the surface.

Even if all arms in Congo were laid down today, children will be maimed and killed by unexploded mines for many years to come.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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