Advocacy messages on children’s needs in the humanitarian context in Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the second largest country in Africa with rich natural resources including coltan, cobalt, gold and diamonds. The population is estimated at 78 million with children and young people, aged 0-24, representing 60% of the overall population. Devastated by decades of armed conflicts, political and social instability, DRC is considered to be one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world and continues to be the theatre of localized conflicts in many parts of the country including Kasai, North and South Kivu, and Ituri, provinces where Save the Children is operating with a total of 3.88 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance The majority of the population lack access to basic services and 73% of the population live in extreme poverty, with thousands of families unable to provide the resources to provide education and health services for their children.
There are currently 13.1million people (7.7million children) in need of humanitarian assistance (14% of the population) and 18 out of the 26 provinces are affected by the crisis. 3.4 million children have little to no access to education.
On the day of the Pledging Conference for the DRC Humanitarian Response Plan on April 13th in Geneva, there is an urgent need for donors and governments to take immediate steps to increase funding for the response, in particular programming on child protection, including sexual violence against children, education and access to health and nutrition services. Save the Children is calling on member States to put children’s rights and their needs at the centre of the international humanitarian response in DRC.
We call on the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo:
•To take immediate and concrete actions to strengthen the implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration and ensure schools, students and teachers are better protected during conflict. This includes incorporating the Safe School Guidelines into military policy and practice guidelines and ensuring all schools become neutral zones for peace and to be free from the presence of armed combatants regardless of what side they are from.
We call on donors and governments to:
•Ensure quality emergency education is accessible to children. The displacement of people, including children and their families, from conflict-affected regions in DRC, including the Kasai, Ituri, North and South Kivu, means children are having to flee for their lives, unable to access education. Where children are fleeing from their homes, there needs to be short and medium-term solutions to safeguard educational continuity in the refugee camps and host communities. Children themselves say their first priority is to return to school and have access to education of quality. This requires:
- Increasing the level of humanitarian funding to education programming and ensuring predictable funding is committed to secure the continuity of education for children affected by conflict and emergencies, in line with funding allocated in the first-phase of a humanitarian response.
-Ensuring continuity when education in emergencies programming ends, through development assistance, to enable children who complete primary school to access secondary education; to enable those who complete courses to evidence this with appropriate and accredited certification; and to enable those who learn a vocational trade to practise it.
-Increase funding to rehabilitate semi-permanent infrastructures to allow safe space for children to learn and thrive: Schools are being deliberately burned and ransacked. There is a lack of teachers as they have moved away in fear of their lives. Students have to study in bad conditions due to the poor quality of classrooms without desks and benches. Children often sit on the floor and write with difficulty on their knees. Classrooms that do exist are cramped and poorly lit.
•Prioritize funding for child protection programming. This entails:
-Providing funding for programmes promoting community awareness to provide mechanisms to protect children from recruitment by militias and other armed groups, ensure they can have access to the support they need, and work with communities and local authorities to ensure schools are increasingly considered safe zones for children.
-Increasing support for DDR programmes and providing mechanisms to protect children from recruitment by militias and other armed groups, and ensure they can have access to the support they need.
•Ensure children are protected from violence and abuse, particularly, sexual exploitation and abuse. It is estimated that 93% of children in DRC as subject to some form of violence. Specific protection concerns for children also continue to exist for girls and boys who were exposed to bloodshed in their villages and schools, some of them witnessed acts of extreme violence, including the decapitation of their parents as well as rape of family members.
•Increase funding for greater access to health and nutrition services and ensure access to food security, access to drinking water, basic sanitation and hygiene services. Food and nutrition security has deteriorated rapidly, particularly due to the economic deterioration of the country, limited access to food and rising food prices and continuous conflicts. There is an estimated 60.5% of children suffering from epidemics, food insecurity with no access to health infrastructures and 86% of them suffering from malnutrition.