Fighting in DR Congo exposes children to forced recruitment exploitation – UN

The situation of children in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has gone from bad to worse, with 60,000 people newly driven from their homes by fighting in North Kivu province, exposing youngsters to the dangers of forced recruitment and sexual exploitation, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “Separation of children from the parents always puts children at risk,” UNICEF’s Chief of Field Operations for the DRC Julien Harneis said. “Then you’ve got the creation of spontaneous camps, which leads to measles, cholera and the recruitment of children into armed groups.” The challenges posed by forced child recruitment are vast, UNICEF said. “Children are taken by militias against their will and used as porters and fighters or, in the case of girls, for sexual exploitation. There is also great risk, of course, of injury and death from violence and battle,” it added. The agency has received a report of 54 cases of children recruited in northeast Kivu “and to the west we’ve heard that there’s forced recruitment of all males over the age of 15,” Mr. Harneis said. “In the last couple of weeks, we believe that hundreds of children have been recruited into militias, which brings the total number of cases to well over 1,000.” Upwards of 8,000 children have been separated from militias. In most cases, these former child soldiers are returned to their communities, but Mr. Harneis said that for many ex-soldiers the story does not end there. Many fall prey to re-recruitment or banditry. “Eventually, they will get separated from the armed groups. But then they face issues related to alienation from their community. These children haven’t been educated and their skills aren’t appropriate to civilian life,” he warned. UNICEF is addressing these problems by supporting a comprehensive reintegration programme for 5,500 former child soldiers who have already returned to their community, but due to the current intense fighting between the army, renegade troops and rebels, the environment is too insecure in many parts of North Kivu to implement the programme. The agency and its partners are also stepping up efforts to provide much needed vaccinations, nutritional supplements, water and sanitation aids and shelter to the newly displaced people now living in camps and makeshift shelters. It is currently impossible to be sure how many children are at risk for being re-recruited once they are removed from the armed groups. “Several hundred children have been recruited in the last couple of weeks,” Mr. Harneis said. “How many of them have been re-recruited? We don’t have access to these areas, so we cannot ascertain at the moment the exact origin of these recruits. What we do know is that about 5,500 children in the area have previously been in armed groups – and they are all at risk for re-recruitment.” 19 September 2007The situation of children in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has gone from bad to worse, with 60,000 people newly driven from their homes by fighting in North Kivu province, exposing youngsters to the dangers of forced recruitment and sexual exploitation, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). read more

US aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to arrive in Sri Lanka

It is estimated that the carrier strike group will add approximately 1.54 billion rupees ($10 million USD) to the Sri Lankan economy as the ships purchase supplies and thousands of U.S. sailors come ashore and support local businesses.During the visit, sailors will have opportunities to explore the local community and meet with their counterparts in the Sri Lankan Navy.  While in port, sailors will also work with local non-profit organizations to support community service events at a local hospital, an orphanage, and other sites. “Building our maritime partnership in step with Sri Lanka’s own progress on reconciliation and human rights advances our shared national goals of fostering security and stability,” said U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives Atul Keshap.  “I’m delighted that U.S. sailors will have the chance to visit Sri Lanka, meet with its wonderful people, and take part in public service activities at schools, hospitals, and rest homes that will improve the lives of Sri Lankans of all ages,” he added. The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is scheduled to arrive in Colombo, Sri Lanka for a planned port visit on October 28.The Carrier Strike Group includes the USS Nimitz, the cruiser USS Princeton, and destroyers USS Howard, USS Shoup, USS Pinckney, and USS Kidd.  The ships are scheduled to depart Colombo on October 31, 2017. Reflecting the growing relationship between the U.S. and Sri Lankan navies, this is the first time an aircraft carrier has visited Sri Lanka since 1985, and follows the recent completion of the inaugural bilateral Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) naval exercise. “There is an excitement among the crew to experience everything Colombo has to offer,” said Rear Admiral Gregory Harris, commander, Carrier Strike Group 11. “There is a sense of adventure and anticipation for this visit since few in the crew have previously been to Sri Lanka.  Our visit will be a great opportunity to enhance our relationship with Sri Lanka through cultural exchanges and other exchanges, relationships that I suspect will last long after we depart.”The USS Nimitz is more than 23 stories high from the keel to the top of the mast and is approximately 333 meters long.  It can accommodate more than 5,000 personnel, with its kitchens providing more than 18,000 meals each day.  It produces 1.5 million liters of fresh water daily and its two barber shops give 1,500 haircuts each week.  The USS Nimitz’s home port is in the state of Washington. (Colombo Gazette) read more