In January, DTJ’s Lindsay Branham and Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s (HHI) Jocelyn Kelly traveled to northeastern DRC to systematically document the impact of the Lord’s Resistance Army. They guest blogged for the NYT here. Today DTJ and HHI are releasing the findings from their research in a report titled, “We Suffer From War and More War”: An Assessment of the Impact of the Lord’s Resistance Army on Formerly Abducted Children and their Communities in Northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Tomorrow the United Nations Security Council will meet to discuss the LRA and what can be done to address the crisis. In lieu of this meeting, the report urges that the humanitarian needs of communities devastated by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) be a top priority.
Respondents in the study stressed that the international community must assist with providing essential services through long-term engagement, including life-saving health services; improving water and sanitation access; and providing psychosocial and educational interventions to formerly abducted children and adults. While these communities are facing emergency-level challenges now, the study asserts the need for solutions that will last into the future.
While this report affirms the internationally accepted need to capture the LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, and secure peace for the region, the report also highlights the need for a more holistic, long-term engagement to protect civilians and establish stability. Areas of need that study respondents emphasized are the growing rates of HIV/AIDS; the psychosocial needs of children returning from abduction by the LRA, specifically young girls who face a myriad of reproductive health and psychosocial consequences; and communities’ restricted access to economic and agricultural opportunities.
The LRA is a brutal rebel movement that has committed some of the most grievous human rights abuses in Africa in recent decades. The group is particularly known for its merciless conscription of children into its ranks. Currently, the LRA is active in South Sudan, northeastern DRC and Central African Republic.
“I don’t know why the LRA exists,” said a leader of an internally displaced persons displacement camp near Dungu, a town in northeastern DRC. “I feel like they’ve just come to kill all of us.”
The dire impact of the LRA’s predatory violence includes the looting of possessions, abduction of children and massacre of civilians, as well as the compounded downstream health, psychosocial and economic repercussions. The study asserts that integrated solutions are needed to respond to multi-level problems – continuing to work with communities to build on current protection and resilience strategies, while strengthening the national and international response, will be critical to addressing the continued LRA threat.