GOMA, Congo (AP) — More than 4 million children have lost at least one parent in Congo over the past two decades, the silent victims of continuous cycles of violence.
And more than 26 million orphans live in West and Central Africa, where Congo is located — the second highest number in the world behind South Asia, according to the United Nations.
These children have grown up amid conflict fueled by ethnic strife and the fight over valuable minerals. The violence and displacement are eroding the tradition of families caring for their own.
The breakdown in family means some orphans are forced to look after themselves and their younger siblings. Some are vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups. And many also face sexual exploitation, in a country where rape has become commonplace on the streets.