EXPERT INTERVIEW – The security and humanitarian situation in the Kasaï provinces is serious, with an alarming impact on thousands of children. Four questions for Aude Rigot, Head of emergencies at UNICEF in DRC, to take stock of the crisis in Kasaï, the situation of the children and of UNICEF’s response to this emergency.
What are the consequences of the crisis in Kasaï for children?
From the beginning of this crisis and up to now, the situation of children is preoccupying. We estimate that, currently, more than one million people have been displaced by violence, including many children.
We note many cases of children separated from their families due to the violence. More than 4,000 children separated from their families have been counted in the affected provinces and 384 enrolled in the armed groups. Additionally, others can no longer go to school because of this period of heightened tension. There is therefore a serious problem of access to education for the children of Kasaï. More than 350 schools have been destroyed in the Kasaï, Kasaï central and Kasaï oriental provinces.
Beyond the education issue, there is a problem of access to healthcare. Health services are dysfunctional and face a shortage of medication. There are also many cases of measles epidemics, health centers have been pillaged….in short the sanitation situation is critical, children are at risk of no longer receiving treatment.
In Kasaï central, 163 health areas in the zones affected by the crisis are no longer operational, out of the 420 across the province. This means 1 in 3 health areas do not work.
What is UNICEF doing for children in the Kasaï crisis?
UNICEF has been active since the beginning of the crisis in Kasaï, and had already reached close to 38,000 people, of which 23,079 were children in its response to the emergency, as of 31 March 2017.
Before the crisis, UNICEF was already implementing development programmes in the Kasaï provinces, which are still ongoing. In the area of justice, UNICEF collaborates with the Child’s Court to assist children in conflict with the law, in particular imprisoned children.
UNICEF also operates in the areas of health and access to water. For example, as early as November 2016, UNICEF launched a programme for multisectoral assistance, integrating the following issues: assistance in essential household items (EHI) for displaced populations and the vulnerable communities accommodating them. UNICEF distributed essential household items (cans, soaps, basins, plastic covers) to 445 households of the most vulnerable displaced and/or returned people; 3,772 children affected by the conflict participated in educational, playful, recreational and athletic activities and received psychosocial care; 35,000 inhabitants in the zones most affected by the crisis and displaced people have free access to quality primary healthcare; 24 classrooms are being rebuilt, which will allow 1,440 students in the zones most affected by the conflict to have access to school once again.
Also to be noted are the programmes supporting basic social services and psychosocial care for the children affected by the violence.
Finally, we report that UNICEF is active in the region in a structural way, from its offices in Mbuji Mayi andKananga, since the 1990s and continues to implement – when security allows it – its structural development programmes, while simultaneously delivering an emergency response.
In order to meet the needs of the children victimized by violence in Greater Kasaï, UNICEF needs additional financial means.
What are the main challenges in responding to this emergency?
There are many challenges. Firstly, on the geographic level, there is a logistical problem of access: the zones are supplied from Kinshasa or Lubumbashi, but logistics are a great challenge!
Secondly, because the crisis is volatile and evolving quickly, it is difficult to know exactly where to intervene. The response capability is therefore limited given that the need is growing and the security access also remains a problem.
Finally, on the financial side, these two provinces having always been stable and calm, UNICEF was mainly implementing development programmes there. Available humanitarian funds were, until now, primarily allocated to the eastern part of the country and to the Tanganyika province, which are the provinces most affected by crises and armed conflicts. There is therefore a need to readjust the financial allocations and to develop humanitarian response capabilities in addition to the development work.
UNICEF needs US$ 20.6 million in order to implement its emergency response for the children in Greater Kasaï. Currently, UNICEF has only been able to secure US$ 3.5.
We call upon the common responsibility of all to collect the necessary funds to allow the millions of affected families to recover from the crisis and allow their children to pursue their development. Without support, UNICEF will be unable to pursue its response at the necessary level.
For more information about the crisis in Kasaï
- 1.5 million children affected by violence in Greater Kasai
- Kasai and Tanganyika: innovating to improve the lives of displaced families
Interview with the collaboration of Abdon SHABANI
Translated by Lisa Berthelot
Photo: UNICEF DRC 2016 Gabriele Erba
Justine Mounet est consultante en communication à l’UNICEF RDC. Justine a rejoint l'UNICEF en 2013 car elle est croit que le plaidoyer et la participation de chacun sont essentiels pour faire avancer la société, le bien-être et les droits de tous. Justine est spécialisée dans l'engagement des jeunes à travers le web, convaincue que ce sont des acteurs puissants du changement. Son leitmotiv ? "L'arbre qui tombe fait plus de bruit que la forêt qui pousse" : portons la voix de la forêt en germe !
Justine Mounet is a Communication Consultant at UNICEF in DRC. Justine joined UNICEF in 2013 because she believes that advocacy and everyone's participation are essential for advancing society, as well as the well-being and the rights of all. Justine has specialized in digital youth engagement, convinced that they are powerful actors of change. Her leitmotiv? "The tree that falls makes more noise than the forest that grows": let's make the growing forest heard!.
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