Abandoned half-built buildings, abandoned half-destroyed buildings and slums form the bulk of the cityscape of Goma, on the border with Rwanda. Nothing works. Corruption, power outages, and impassable roads - and the palpable threat of chaos - are part of daily life. One in six children born today in the Democratic Republic of Congo won't live to see their fifth birthday. Since the outbreak of fighting in 1998 almost three million children have died here. Within these dire conditions I saw the extraordinary work of War Child and met children who, despite every element working against them, astonished me with their warmth, intelligence, determination and desire to learn and build a better life.
This week has seen a flurry of activity around an issue that for far too long has been forgotten, silenced or viewed as an inevitable consequence of war: sexual violence in conflict. All of this is extremely important - but in the rush to 'do something' about the horrific crimes being committed in Syria, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and other conflict zones, we should not forget some basic premises.
Lots of great stuff to take your fancy on our frontpage today, leading with Rob Williams, chief exec of War Child UK on how the forgotten crisis in the Central African Republic, David Mellor on why the England squad needs John Terry, Richard Branson on looking after your staff and artist Stella Vine on the inspirational joys of the countryside...
A new War Child report, released this week, marks exactly a year since a coup sent the Central African Republic (CAR), a country mired in protracted emergency, spiralling into even deeper crisis. We are also two weeks away from the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide - a tragedy which robust peacekeeping could have prevented. If you think this could never happen again, have a look at CAR, where children as young as three years old have been raped and left with horrific injuries. Other children have been killed, maimed and even beheaded.
The scale of the violence, which has intensified since November, has escalated rapidly. More than 1,000 people have died in the last month alone. A widespread culture of impunity has rendered women particularly vulnerable and sexual violence is being used to terrorise groups within the country. A million people have fled or been displaced from their homes, compounding the already desperate humanitarian crisis. Amidst the horror, there is also confusion - from those struggling to make sense of a conflict in a country where Christian and Muslim communities have coexisted peacefully in the past and where, now, intense religious division is leading to horrific violence.
There have been very few direct threats towards international journalists in the country, but getting caught up in the crossfire, being robbed, or even sexually assaulted are all daily risks. Some writers still managed to get the story out from a distance, relying on telephone or email interviews, and press releases from Human Rights Watch or Doctors Without Borders to embellish their copy. So, what changed?
I have just returned from a week in the Central African Republic (CAR). I was shocked by what I witnessed. Dead bodies littering the streets. Children shot and injured in the fighting. Hundreds of thousands of families driven into the bush by fear, living out in the open with no food or shelter. In the capital, thousands huddled around a monastery frightened for their lives. I will never forget the fear in the eyes of the children I met.