Army rocket ripped off Janviere’s arm

WIDE-EYED and bewildered, Janviere looks up from his hospital bed.

Thin and wearing a ragged pair of jeans, the 16-year-old’s appearance is like most Congo male teenagers. Except he is missing an arm, torn off by an army rocket.

It was four weeks ago when government troops and rebels began exchanging fire in his home village in the region of Rutshuru, in the east of the country.

The teenager and his little brother, 10, ran away when the fighting erupted.

Nervously, the wounded boy describes how he came to lose his left arm.

“My younger brother and I fled. We ran into the forest to try and hide from the fighting.”

But while the two brothers were running, government troops launched a rocket at the positions of rebels who were positioned nearby the woods. The blast threw the boys onto the ground.

“I saw my young brother trying to escape again and tried to stand up. But I saw my arm was nearly falling onto the ground.”

“My brother became scared when he saw what had happened to me and ran away on his own into the forest,” adds Janviere.

Bleeding heavily and quickly losing consciousness, the older boy made his way out of the woods to government soldiers. He collapsed at their feet but not before making one request.

“I asked them to help me get rid of this, my arm,” he adds.

Local villagers carried the unconscious boy to a Medicines Sans Frontiers team who then rushed him to Rutshuru town for emergency surgery.

The boy’s life was slipping away, a doctor explains:

“When he arrived he had one gram of haemoglobin left. He was dying. We had to give him three and half litres of blood from the hospital bank. His arm was shattered and there was bone everywhere.”

But this was not enough.

“When he woke up. We had to ask him if we could amputate his arm.

“It was badly infected,” adds the MSF medic.

With nearly half his upper torso covered in bandage, Janviere shows no pain with the loss of the limb, amputated at the shoulder. It’s the mention of his future that brings tears. Growing up, he had dreamed of becoming a health care worker.

His father, who had been a salesman, was killed working in Goma while his mother abandoned her five children including Janviere, when he was 10.

“I have my big sister to help feed and wash me,” he says, wiping his tears.

Like hundreds of thousands of children though in the eastern DRC, Janviere has only ever known war.

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