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“Forded recruitment continues especially in the villages of the north Kivu Province, and the children who try to escape are tortured or killed, sometimes made an example of in front of other children,” says Paolo Urbano, in charge of the health sector of Italian Cooperation in a statement issued yesterday 11 July to the Italian Press Agency.
“Any progress in the struggle against the exploitation of children in armed conflicts comes from the ‘Disarmament, demobilisation and rehabilitation Programme’ coordinated by Unicef in collaboration with Amnesty International and with various international NGO. According to medical sources in Italian Cooperation, present in Kinshasa since 1999 and engaged in the international programme for freeing children, “the situation has greatly improved but it is still critical.”
“Our work,” Urbano explains, “consists in the social and civil rehabilitation of the children since their recruitment turns their lives upside-down.”
The Press Agency Statement declares that the Don Bosco Centre in Goma is still engaged in welcoming and helping in the recovery of freed child soldiers. When civil war broke out again in the Kivu region in 2008, the Salesian centre was the place where thousands of refugees fleeing from the war found accommodation and help and it became the coordination centre for a number of international humanitarian organisations.
In November the following year the Spanish Committee of Unicef gave the centre the International Award “Los niños primeros” (Children First), because as the citation declared: “in the midst of war, atrocities and suffering this centre welcomed, educated, cared for and fed about 26,000 youngsters.”