KINSHASA – Kevin Lusongo has been on the streets since he was 11. He sleeps on a piece of cardboard in an unlit parking lot in a poor neighborhood of Kinshasa, behind trucks he hopes can shield him from view.
Some nights he’s unlucky. Recently police came looking for a stolen handbag and beat him up when they didn’t find it, said the boy, who’s now 14. Then there are the older children.
“Often when you sleep, the others come and burn your feet with (flaming) plastic bags,” he said. “The oldest will see you and take your money. If you complain, they beat you severely.”
Kevin has the gaunt frame of a boy unused to nutritious meals since he was turned out by his family. He works odd jobs, begs and picks through trash to survive.
He is one of 25,000 street children in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, a number that has nearly doubled in a decade, according to 2014 figures from the U.N. children’s agency, with thousands more in the country’s other cities.
Congo is Africa’s top producer of copper and a mining boom has fueled annual economic growth of 8 percent for five years, one of the highest rates in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund.
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