Africa

Photographs by Marcus Bleasdale

2006 World Press Photo--2nd Prize Award for Daily Life

A street boy enjoys a shower at a center for street children in Kinshasa.
© 2005 Marcus Bleasdale

Turned out of their homes and without family care and support, tens of thousands of street children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) endure routine physical, emotional, and sexual abuse by law enforcement personnel and ordinary civilians. Taking advantage of their vulnerability, adults employ street children in hazardous child labor and deliberately recruit them in political demonstrations that have in the past resulted in dozens of street children killed or wounded.

 

The civil war in the DRC, which has claimed the lives of some four million Congolese, has contributed to an estimated doubling of the number of street children in the last decade. A growing number of children orphaned by war are accused by surviving family members of practicing sorcery. Blamed for their familiesí misfortunes, accused children are severely abused in their homes and in churches where they are sent to rid them of "possession." Children affected by or infected with HIV/AIDS are particularly vulnerable to abuse. Extended family members who take in their relatives' children orphaned by AIDS, often blame them for their parents' death and accuse them of transmitting the disease through sorcery. These children are frequently beaten, neglected, and thrown out of their homes.