Our advocacy for « Healthy Neighborhoods » in DRC has succeeded!

Healthy Neighborhoods in DRCHello, I am Glodi, a Child Reporter from Kinshasa. My article is about the Global Handwashing Day and our great advocacy for the children of the city and secondary school students to also benefit from the Healthy Villages and Schools program. It’s been two years now since we, Child Reporters of Kinshasa, have been advocating for an end to the discrimination that allows only children living in rural areas and those attending primary schools to benefit from the Healthy Villages and Schools program in the DRC.

« Choosing to wash hands is choosing health »

Our goal was to get the authorities, who are responsible for of the rights of all children, to put an end to this discrimination, for the children of urban areas and secondary school students are also victims of diseases caused by dirty hands, just like their peers in the rural areas and in primary schools.

For a reminder, by establishing the Global Handwashing Day in 2008, the United Nations particularly aimed to sensitize children on the importance of washing hands with soap or ash, for it is a simple formula for the reduction of diseases related to dirty hands which are causing the deaths of many children, especially those below the age of five.

For 2016, the theme retained at the international level for sensitizing communities is: « Make hand washing a habit ». At the national level, the theme is: « Choosing to wash hands is choosing health ».

Delphin Makambu, 11 ans, élève à l'école primaire de Kasombo, un village situé à 12 km à l'est de Kenge, dans la province du Bandundu, en République démocratique du Congo, se lave les mains à l'aide d'un seau fourni par l'UNICEF dans le cadre du projet « écoles assainis », le 7 octobre 2015. / Bénédicte Yanvu, a 8 years old student at the Kasombo primary school, a village 12 km east of Kenge, in the Bandundu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo, is washing his hands with soap and a bucket provided by the UNICEF, as part of the "cleaned schools" program, on October 7th, 2015.

Why the advocacy for « healthy neighborhoods »?

We took the opportunity of the celebration of the Global Handwashing Day to renew our advocacy targeting the Ministry of Health and the Deputy Representative of UNICEF in the DRC who were both present at the Marie Madeleine primary school, a healthy school in the N’sele district of the Bibwaneighborhood where the ceremony was taking place.

We brought it to the attention of the authorities present at this ceremony that whatever reasons there might be to justify it, the discrimination between children of the cities and the others regarding the Healthy Villages program was against the Convention on the Rights of the Child, especially article 2 of the Convention, which stipulates that all rights are applicable to every child without discrimination

This nondiscrimination provision is expressed in article 24 section 2 point E, which calls on member states to ensure that all parents and children get access to information on hygiene and a healthy environment.

How the authorities responded to our advocacy

When the National Minister of Health spoke, we were pleasantly surprised to hear him promise that schools in urban areas would soon also benefit from the Healthy School program.

He also urged various actors to involve more children in the sensitization activities, in order to ensure the sustainability of the results of the hygiene and sanitation program.

On his part, the Deputy Representative of UNICEF in the DRC said that the Healthy Village program would soon become the «Healthy Villages and Neighborhoods» program.

These two responses made us to realize that the authorities who used to justify discrimination in the past, had finally decided to put an end to discrimination between urban and rural areas with regard to access to water, hygiene and sanitation. This implies that they had been convinced by our wish to see them take quick action, or children would continue to die of diseases related to dirty hands.

Counting on you for healthy neighborhoods in the DRC!

Des membres de la brigade scolaire d'hygiène de l'école primaire Wamba Dipanda, dans un village situé à 12 km à l'ouest de Kenge, dans la province du Bandundu, en République démocratique du Congo, s’apprêtent à laver les latrines, le 8 octobre 2015, dans le cadre du projet « école assainies » financé par l'UNICEF. / Members of the school hygiene brigade of the Wamba Dipanda primary school, a village 12 km west of Kenge, in the Bandundu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo, are ready to clean their latrines, on October 7th, 2015, as part of the "cleaned schools" program financed by the UNICEF.

I therefore ask all Child Reporters in the DRC not to be discouraged, but to continue to monitor the various advocacy programs that they have undertaken for the triumph of the rights of all children.

On our part, we will monitor in the weeks ahead, the progress of the Healthy Schools, Villages and Neighborhoods programs in both rural and urban areas, and also share the progress observed with regard to the end of the discrimination that was promised by these authorities.

I also urge all children to get involved in the various sensitization activities so as to achieve long-term results, but also and especially, to ensure that our rights to participate at all levels and in all issues that concern us are more effective.

Photo: UNICEF DRC Gwenn Dubourthoumieu

Translated from French by Felix Awung 

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Glodi a 14 ans et est enfant reporter de Kinshasa. Il étudie la pédagogie parce qu'apprendre aux personnes qui sont ignorantes est le plus noble des métiers. Glodi est passionné de football, et surtout de Lionel Messi. Son rêve pour le futur est qu'au moins 99% des enfants aillent à l'école et qu'il n'y ait aucune discrimination entre filles et garçons, pour que le Congo se développe et que les enfants aient un avenir radieux.

Glodi is 14 and he's a young reporter in Kinshasa. He's studying Education because teaching people who are ignorant is such an honourable profession. Glodi is passionate about football, and especially Lionel Messi. His dream for the future would be for 99% of children to be able to go to school and for there to be no discrimination between girls and boys, so that Congo can develop and offer a bright future for its children.

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