Conflict has been raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for 20 years which has brought the country to its knees and caused humanitarian disaster.
In August 2016, families living in the once peaceful area of Kasai were affected by the violence.
What started as a dispute between a local traditional leader and the Congolese government, spiralled into a violent clash between militias and government forces which has enveloped the entire Kasai region and beyond.
The situation since has dramatically deteriorated. An estimated 3,000 lives have been lost in conflict since September 2016, and over 13 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance making this the largest humanitarian crisis in Africa.
Huge numbers of people have been forced from their homes and many are fleeing to neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Zambia.
As people flee the violence, food production is suffering at a time when food insecurity and malnutrition is already widespread. Over 2 million children are severely malnourished and at risk of dying of hunger.
Last year saw the worst recorded cholera epidemic of the past 15 years, as well as a surge in measles cases. Meanwhile health facilities are being looted and burnt and families are living in the nearby bush, surviving in improvised huts without access to adequate healthcare, sanitation or food.
Too many children do not have access to education and are at risk of abuse and exploitation.
There have been widespread violations of human rights with reports of targeted attacks against civilians and a high prevalence of gender-based violence and sexual violence being used as a weapon of war.
The shocking stats
- More than 13 million people in the DRC depend on humanitarian aid to survive
- Two thirds of those are children
- Reports suggest that up to 60% of militia members are children who have been forcibly recruited, often younger than 15
- More than 400 schools have been attacked, over half of which have been totally destroyed
What we’re doing
By building classrooms, training teachers and distributing learning materials, we’re increasing access to quality basic education for thousands of children.
We’re helping strengthen family care systems and training local leaders and communities to prevent and respond to exploitation and abuse.
We’re urging the government and relevant authorities to call for the recruitment of children into armed groups to stop; to put mechanisms in place to protect children who have been arrested and for survivors to access support
We’re calling for schools to become neutral zones, to be free from the presence of violence and be safe and secure places for learning, caring and nurturing.
In June last year, we deployed our innovative Emergency Health Unit to provide essential healthcare to children and their families. We sent three Mobile Health Clinics – 4x4s carrying medical equipment and personnel – to travel around Kasai and reach the most remote communities who wouldn’t otherwise receive any medical care.
We’ve also set up Child friendly spaces to provide children with a safe space to play and regain a sense of normality in the midst of crisis while teaching them about their rights. Adults are also trained on child safeguarding and the Child Protection Act.