6 April 2004

Rwanda: Ten Years After Genocide, Rwandan Children Suffer Lasting Impact

press release

Geneva/New York — Rwanda has one of the world’s highest proportions of child-headed households

Ten years after the genocide in Rwanda that took the lives of 800,000 people, the country’s children continue to struggle with the lingering impact of the atrocities, UNICEF said today.

"Ten years later, the children of Rwanda are still suffering the consequences of a conflict caused entirely by adults," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said. "For them, the genocide is not just a historical event, but an inescapable part of daily life today and tomorrow."

By the end of the genocide in 1994, 95,000 children had been orphaned.

"The children of Rwanda witnessed unspeakable violence," Bellamy said. "Tens of thousands lost their mothers and fathers. Thousands were victims of horrific brutality and rape. Many were forced to commit atrocities. The impact of the tragedy simply cannot be overstated."

Today, Rwanda’s children face extreme challenges:

* Rwanda is home to one of the world’s largest proportions of child-headed households, with an estimated 101,000 children living in some 42,000 households. These children are on their own either because their parents were killed in the genocide, died from AIDS or have been imprisoned for genocide-related crimes.
* 2000 women - many of whom were survivors of rape, were tested for HIV during the five years following the 1994 genocide. Of them 80 per cent were found to be HIV positive. Many were not sexually active before the genocide.
* By 2001, an estimated 264,000 children had lost one or both parents to AIDS, representing 43 percent of all orphans. This figure is expected to grow to over 350,000 by 2010.
* More than 400,000 children are out of school.
* Rwanda has one of the world’s worst child mortality rates - 1 in 5 Rwandan children die before their fifth birthday. Bellamy said the anniversary must be marked with renewed concern for those continuing to suffer from the genocide.

"We are all still accountable for supporting reconciliation and healing, and for ensuring that such atrocities never happen again," Bellamy said. "’Never again’ means holding perpetrators accountable and restoring the dignity of victims by commemorating or alleviating their suffering."

Even more important, Bellamy said, is to meet this anniversary with a renewed commitment to ensure that the world never again allows such a catastrophe to go unchecked.

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