International

Humanitarian Crises in DRC Leaves Millions of Children in Danger

The ongoing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo have left more than two million children malnourished.
Nick Turse/The Investigative Fund
Mave Grace (left) with her sister Rochelle N'gabusi.

The men came screaming out of the darkness, some firing AK-47s, most wielding bows and arrows or razor-sharp machetes. They had laid waste to a nearby village hours earlier and were now doing the same to Tche, a rural community in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The terrible, undulating war whoops of the attackers were soon joined by sharp shrieks of women pierced by arrows and the cries of men being killed with pangas.

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Nyine Richard tossed his three-and-a-half-year-old son on his back, grabbed some belongings and dashed into the darkness with his wife and three other children. Lotsove Matutina was carrying their youngest and their two-year-old girl, Rochelle.

Four men overtook Nyine, cornering him. He could see their faces and knew them all by name. They were ethnic Lendus. He is from the minority Hema community.

Key Findings

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo's many conflicts have led to a humanitarian crisis that rivals any — from Syria to Myanmar — on the planet. And DRC’s youth have borne the brunt of the hardship.

  • Studies of children have determined that war and terror lead to “significant levels of psychological distress and psychiatric problems following exposure to conflict,” including PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorders.

  • By the end of January of this year, children made up 800,000 of the 1.3 million people displaced by inter-ethnic violence by armed groups, and between such militias and the Congolese military, in the provinces of Tanganyika and South Kivu.

First, the men asked for money. When Nyine said he had none, they began swinging their machetes. It all happened in an instant, though the moments were the longest of his life. A blade sliced down, opening a large vertical wound from the top of his head to just above his left eye. Another strike opened a deep gash stretching diagonally across the back of his head. Still another found the base of his neck. Another his right shoulder. Another his left arm. Still another cut into his lower back leaving a deep, grievous wound. It may have been one of these blows that also killed his young son.

Men with machetes set upon his pregnant wife, too. And her baby. And her toddler. All three soon lay in the blood-soaked dirt; little Rochelle Ngabusi was lying face-up, a deep wound to the top of her head, another that divided her delicate face with a diagonal gash running from her right temple all the way down her chubby left cheek.

The couple’s eldest child, 11-year-old Mave Grace, stood stunned, watching as the militiamen cut her mother, again and again, with machetes. Some of them turned on her. The force of the panga strike to her left arm severed it at the wrist. But it may have been the swing that tore into her head or the deep cut at the base of her neck that ultimately closed her eyes.

About the reporter

Nick Turse

Nick Turse

Nick Turse is an investigative reporter, the managing editor of The Nation Institute's TomDispatch, and the co-founder of Dispatch Books.

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