In 2013, House of Mercy Children’s Home, Lagos, Nigeria (HOM) contributed a token and also lent its support to on-going efforts to provide emergency humanitarian aid to children caught in the crossfire, refugees and displaced people in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Children in the Kivu provinces of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo were not only caught in the crossfire of the area’s ongoing violence but also faced health risks, threats of forced recruitment by local and foreign militias and interrupted education.
The conflict, also referred to as “the mobile phone war” or “the coltan conflict” or “the war of resources” has uprooted at least 100,000 people. More than half of them are children under 18 years of age.
Conflict takes a terrible toll on children and on their access to a decent education, which for many is their principal hope of a better future. In many countries, government forces, militias and guerrilla groups continue to recruit, forcibly enlist and abduct children for use as soldiers. The injuries, psychological trauma and stigma suffered by many child soldiers compound the challenges they face trying to catch up on lost years of education.
‘Lest we forget,’ the phrase that sums up the spirit behind war commemorations, urges us not only to remember the war dead but also to strive to protect the thousands of children around the world who continue to be recruited for use as soldiers.
The Democratic Republic of Congo humanitarian crisis remains one of the world’s most complex and protracted emergencies. According to the Global Report on Internal Displacement, of the 6.9 million new internal displacements caused by conflict in 2016, 2.6 million took place in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo was the country worst affected, with a spike of 922,000 new displacements during the year alone.
Our vision is of a prosperous and peaceful African continent where every child lives in safety and dignity and is enabled to reach his or her full potential.
According to a research carried out by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), an estimated 50 billion dollars leave Africa illicitly every year mostly to Western countries while at least one trillion dollars have left Africa secretly over the last 50 years. About 75% of resources that leave the continent’s shores in secrecy are traceable to corporate tax avoidance in the form of trade mispricing by multinational corporations, many with headquarters in G7 countries; debt burden or colonial tax imposed on many former colonies; and criminal networks engaged in drugs and human trafficking, animal poaching, and theft of oil and minerals. Only 5% of the illicit financial flows are traceable to official corruption such as payment of bribes and kickbacks by foreign corporations to government officials so that the country can relinquish control of its natural resources and resource extraction operations. These funds could otherwise have been used for investments in power supplies, schools, hospitals, housing, sanitation, transportation, safe roads and other much needed public services.
Business as usual is not an option for Africa. Delivering and sustaining results for children will require not only action by both governments and the public at large but also a wholesale change in the way we think and the way we act. With adequate social investment in the health, education and protection of children aligned with financial transparency, good governance, enforcement of law and order, natural resource governance and sound economic and environmental management and planning, Africa has the potential to give all the continent’s children the opportunity to survive, develop and reach their full potential.