July 15 2005
The tragedy of the DR of Congo and the situation of children
(13 July 2005) - Despite a peace agreement and UN peacekeepers on the ground, there are cases again and again of severe attacks on civilians in the north-east and east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The children particularly suffer from the consequences of a devastating civil war which has left an estimated total of 3.8 million people dead and has ruined the country.
SOS Children's Villages, which has been active in the country for 16 years now, runs social service centres for war orphans and families in need in two locations in the crisis region of South Kivu. The projects run by the child care organisation in Bukavu and Uvira have repeatedly been pushed into the line of fire due to invisible front lines being set by various warring parties; the past years also have repeatedly seen looting and temporary military sieges.
Marthe Kagane, director of SOS Children's Villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo located in Bukavu, describes the situation in South Kivu as unpredictable: "There is strong military presence both in and around the SOS Children's Villages. This makes people feel insecure as they do not know what tomorrow may bring. It's neither war, nor peace. Anything can happen anytime. Compared to Uvira, the situation in Bukavu is critical and dangerous."
People living in the troubled province of South Kivu, where UN peacekeeping mission troops (MONUC) are on the ground, can not fall back on a functioning social or economic or political infrastructure. Internally displaced persons and refugees from Rwanda and Burundi add to the aggravated situation of supply shortages. According to Marthe Kagane, it is primarily the volunteers, church initiatives, NGOs and UN organisations that cater for the people's basic needs and care for orphans. There are barely any publicly-run hospitals, education and training services for the youth are lacking, and there is astronomic unemployment.
The children are the ones who suffer the most from existing hopelessness and extreme poverty, says Marthe Kagane: "The children neither have a future nor prospects. The majority does not attend school. This all contributes to increasing the number of street kids throughout the country, especially in the eastern regions. The street children, called Maibobo, live in constant fear of violence or even murder. Due to steady deterioration of the situation, parents are giving up on their responsibility. One of the results is increasing prostitution among under-aged girls who try to make a living for themselves or their entire family."
There are no exact statistics available on the number of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo in need of long-term family-based care; however, Marthe Kagane says there are thousands and thousands of them. SOS Children's Villages is the only privately-run organisation in the region offering long-term family-based care for orphaned and abandoned children.
At present there are two SOS Children's Villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo, two youth facilities, two SOS Kindergartens, one SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, one SOS Medical Centre and two SOS Social Centres (a school and medical centre are under construction in Uvira).
SOS Children's Villages is a non-governmental and non-denominational organisation providing long-term care for destitute, abandoned and orphaned children in 132 countries and territories. Roughly 59,000 children are cared for at the organisation's 438 SOS Children's Villages and 346 youth facilities worldwide. In addition, the organisation also provides families with welfare and educational services. Some 131,000 children and youths attend SOS Schools, SOS Kindergartens and SOS Vocational Training Centres, while more than 690,000 benefit from SOS Medical and Social Centres and SOS Emergency Relief Programmes.
For further information also on the possibility of interviews, please contact: Doris Kirchebner
, Communications, SOS-Kinderdorf International, Hermann-Gmeiner-Straße 51, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria, Tel: (+43) 512 3310-5171