DR Congo: UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman visits Dungu, a community terrorized by the LRA
"The population of Dungu live in constant fear of attacks from the LRA, who inflicted 20 years of terror in Uganda and other neighboring countries," said Veneman. "The LRA is notorious for kidnapping children, forcing them to kill and maim innocent victims and enslaving young girls as their concubines."
One example of their senseless violence was the 'Christmas Massacre' of December 26, 2008, when the LRA attacked a Catholic church in a nearby village, hacking to death innocent worshippers.
"I met a boy who had been kidnapped by the LRA. His foot became seriously infected and he was unable to keep up with the daily long-distance treks across the countryside," said Veneman. "The rebels taunted him and then severely beat him and left him behind. He lay stranded in the bush without food or water for five days before he was found. "
Today he is with a foster family in Dungu, but he is unable to walk without assistance.
Many of these children who escape from the LRA are cared for in the Dungu community.
"While I was horrified by the violence inflicted on these children, I was inspired by the sheer will and determination of the community to help," said Veneman. "I met five women, each of whom had taken in traumatized children, despite having limited resources and large families of their own. This kind of community care is a true example of humanitarianism."
The former child soldiers stay with their foster families while, COOPI (an Italian NGO), UNICEF and local partners work together to trace families and provide psycho-social support and basic education.
"I asked the mothers and the children what they wanted most," said Veneman. "The answer was the same. The children said they wanted to go back to school. The women said the children are the future of this country and we need the resources to educate them."
Attention broadcasters: VNS of Ms. Veneman's trip to the DRC is available at www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef
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. www.unicef.org
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