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Congo school 'attacked by recruiters of child soldiers'

Armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo have attacked a school to recruit child soldiers, Save the Children said today.

The children's charity says the two recent attacks are part of an explosion in child recruitment over the past few weeks.

One child was killed and 12 others escaped when an armed group attacked a secondary school in Shasha, five miles outside Sake, the charity says.

In another incident, seven children and three teachers were reportedly abducted near Masisi on October 10 after an armed group waited for them outside the school. They were held for two days before managing to escape.

Save the Children says recruitment of children has taken place in Singa in Rutshuru, and children in Masisi have been forced to carry weapons and ammunition. The charity is caring for several children who have escaped from armed groups.

A spokeswoman in Eastern Congo said: "There has been an explosion in the number of children being recruited since the latest violence began and the attacks on schoolchildren are a disturbing development.

"One child told me that they are scared to go back to school for fear of being attacked. For these children, getting an education is their only hope for the future. If they can't go to school, they lose that hope."

The conflict in DR Congo has a history of targeting children. Before the most recent upsurge in violence, Save the Children estimate that 3,000 children were being held by armed groups. That number is now expected to soar.

The charity says it has helped 2,200 children out of armed groups in the last year and reunited most of them with their families, but there are fears that many of these children are at risk of being re-recruited into the fighting.

The UK will provide £2 million in food aid for those caught up in the fighting in the DR Congo, the Government said today.

The donation will be distributed by the World Food Programme and is enough to supply almost half a million people with emergency rations for just over two weeks.

It will buy supplies of pulses, maize, sugar, cooking oil and cereals to cover the immediate food needs of people in North Kivu, where more than 900,000 are now homeless.

The UN estimates that more than 1.6 million people have been displaced across DR Congo, where many families face starvation after they were forced to leave their crops during the planting season.

International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said: "The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is still very serious and the British Government remains committed to helping the hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children caught up in the fighting.

"We are continuing to monitor the situation closely and hope that our efforts will help stop the crisis from escalating."

The £2 million donation is part of a £5 million Government package to help those affected by the crisis.

The Department for International Development said it is providing a total of £42 million in aid to DR Congo this year.

Almost 90 tonnes of aid is set to arrive there tomorrow, containing around 8,000 blankets, 11,000 plastic sheets, 24,000 plastic water bottles and one million water purification tablets.

The number of people displaced in North Kivu has now risen from 900,000 to between 1,200,000 and 1,300,000, the Department for International Development said.

Belfast Telegraph


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