In 2007, UNICEF estimated that 12,000 children were still involved with armed groups—four years after the official end of the war.
Since 1998, tens of thousands of children have been involved in armed conflict in the eastern Congo. According to the 2008 Child Soldiers Global Report, approximately 30,000 children were involved in armed forces and other militias at the end of 2003.
Ongoing conflict in the east causes the displacement of families, which makes children even more vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups. Widespread poverty and the lack of resources for education and training make it difficult for former child soldiers, orphans, and street children to access education and have a normal life. The ongoing humanitarian crisis has lowered school enrollment rates across the country and resources for books, teaching materials and teachers’ salaries are scarce. The cost of attending school also makes it difficult for students to go to school.
Demobilization, disarmament and reintegration programs attempt to bring children out of the conflict and back to their communities, homes and families but limited resources make it difficult for these children to access education, training, food and shelter.
International donors must continue to provide assistance to community-based organizations (CBOs) and international NGOs that are providing education, shelter, counseling and vocational training to these populations. An end to the conflict and increased resources will help these organizations to scale up their work with these communities.
- Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 (This report provides statistics on child soldiers around the world and includes a section on the use of child soldiers in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.)