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Congo: keeping children safe in an emergency

In 2009, as part of our ongoing work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Save the Children trained men and women to identify vulnerable children, record their details, and keep them safe while their parents were traced, or foster families could be found.

Three weeks ago a wall of earth four metres high and 150 metres wide engulfed the same community and turned at least 39 children into orphans.

Their parents lives were taken away. Their homes were destroyed. They were surrounded by dead bodies and destruction. They had nowhere to go. But they did have people who knew what to do.

Before the UN, the NGOs and the local authorities could get their 4x4s and trucks along the ruined road, these children were already being protected by members of their local community. In an area where armed groups prey on children and ‘recruit’ them into the war, that stopped a natural disaster from turning into something even worse.

Investing in community knowledge so that people are prepared for emergencies is critical to saving lives when an emergency does strike. By identifying risks in advance, families and the community can prepare for the worst and often stop the worst from happening at all.

That could mean building storm-proof shelters in hurricane-prone areas, by having emergency rations of food stored above the floodline, by mapping safe places to go in an earthquake — or by training community members to find and care for vulnerable children.

Save the Children needs to be prepared too. The faster we respond in an emergency the more lives we save. So we have the Children’s Emergency Fund, a pool of money that’s raised in advance and is only ever used in emergency situations.

Without it, we’d have to wait for money to arrive before we could begin work. Sometimes that can take weeks. This year alone we’ve needed the fund to respond quickly in Haiti, Kenya, Somalia and Mongolia. We might need it to respond in Kyrgyzstan, and we might need it again tomorrow.

Support our Children’s Emergency Fund

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