Children in Rwanda Four Years Later

News and Press Release
Originally published
Weekly Update
November 13, 1998
A delegation to Rwanda last week marked the inauguration of the Leadership Council on Children in Armed Conflict, a new joint IRC-Women's Commission initiative to protect children caught in the brutality of war. The delegation, headed by IRC Director of the Children Affected by Armed Conflict Program, Marie de la Soudière, included Jodie Eastman, Dr. Gail Furman, Susan Patricof and journalist Jimmie Briggs, Jr. They found that some 200,000 Rwandan children are living with no adult care in child-headed households; more than 6,000 children are still in orphanages and many others are living on the street, their extended families unwilling or unable to care for them; several hundred children are in prison accused of participating in the genocide; and there is reliable information that a large number of children as young as 13 were being recruited into the armed forces.

Delegation members visited children's programs, interviewed child-headed households, talked to local mental health practitioners, met with United Nations and government officials and spent an afternoon at the largest trash dump in Kigali talking to children scavengers looking for discarded food and rubbish to sell. The delegation was most impressed by the IRC's work with children,
especially in the Fred Rwigema Orphanage in Rwamagana and the transit center in Cyangugu. Against all odds, the families of almost two dozen children have been traced after several years of separation and the program is well on its way to finding a place within a family for every single child there. The IRC provides a caring environment at the transit center for traumatized children brought across from the Democratic Republic of Congo in very poor psychological and physical state.

Delegation impressions: With the underlying conflict by no means settled and the civil war in the Congo at a stalemate, the first to suffer are the children, many of whom no longer have access to schooling, show signs of malnutrition and live in destitute and
frightened families.