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Day of the African ChildChildren are our future – protect them!

15-06-2005 News Release 05/53

Throughout the world, the ICRC faces the complex problems posed by the failure of warring parties to distinguish between combatants and civilians, particularly children.

Too often children are deliberately targeted or have their childhood shattered by being separated from their families or recruited into the military or armed groups. This happens in breach not only of international humanitarian law but also of customary rules and tradition.

To mark the Day of the African Child on 16 June, the ICRC wishes to stress that the law specifically protects children. " Children are our future – protect them! " is the message conveyed by the organization to draw attention to the ordeal endured by these young members of the population in places where conflict rages.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, the ICRC helps trace unaccompanied children separated from their loved ones by armed conflict and other violence. It then strives to reunite them. For those who have been recruited by the military and armed groups, this is possible only after they have been demobilized and placed in a transit or counselling centre.

Working in conjunction with the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the ICRC has since the beginning of the year reunited with their families over 100 unaccompanied children and the same number of children who had belonged to the military or armed groups. During the same period the organization collected almost 62,000 Red Cross messages (brief personal messages to relatives) and delivered some 60,000 such messages to enable families dispersed by conflict to restore contact and exchange news. In keeping with its mandate, the ICRC also works to promote awareness among civilians and the authorities of the legal obligation to respect and protect children.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Patrick Mégevand, Kinshasa, tel. +243 81 700 6060  

 Marco Jiménez Rodríguez, Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 22 71