Jeanne and David, child workers in the Kipushi mines

We are in Kipushi, a mining city bordering Zambia, in the province of Katunga in DRC. We are exactly located in the Luwongo quarries, a customs site, by the artificial river called the Katapula. At these different sites, several children between the ages of 3 and 18 years old work alongside other people, adults.

They break stones to produce gravel or attempt to gather the mineral remains that are dumped with toxic materials around the Gécamines company. They work with bare hands and feet, without any protection, to the detriment of their health.

We meet two children : Jeanne Mwanza Martine and Mulapu David, aged 13 and 12 years old respectively. We meet them at the edge of an acidified and toxic river in Kipushi, a city located about 30 km from Lubumbashi, which is the capital of the Katanga province.

They agreed to tell us their story.

Jeanne starts all of her days at 6:00 in the morning. “When I arrive at the river, I plunge my hands into this acidified and toxic water in order to extract a few mineral remains. I work like this all day long. Sometimes, I do not find anything. On days when I am lucky, I can earn about 2000 Fc (2 USD) selling minerals,” Jeanne tells us.

Many children in the quarry spend their day breaking stones into gravel.

Many children in the quarry spend their day breaking stones into gravel.

This modest amount, she explained to us, only enables her to buy a few vegetables to feed herself. She therefore has neither the time nor the means to go to school, or even to play like other children.

As for Mulapu David, he starts his day at 7:00 in the morning. With his 1,5 kg chisel, he breaks stones to make gravel. Often during his work, he is injured by his tool or his eyes are hit by projections of pieces of stone. Because of the permanent dust in the quarry, he is exposed to several illnesses such as colds, coughs, headaches and worse, blindness.

He dreams of becoming a doctor.

According to data from the Framework for Community Consultation and Supervision, which deals with the issue of children in difficulty in Kipushi, some 4,000 children are in a vulnerable situation, many of whom work in the quarries.

For Jeanne and David, as for all the other children growing up in the mines and quarries of Kipushi, this work does not value them as humans.

They have already lost the notion of time, they have lost their childhood, they have no hobbies.

Because of the difficult work they do every day, and of the general nutritional and hygienic conditions, their physical appearance does not match their age. They no longer live like children, but more like adults. They think about and contribute to the survival of their family.

Unfortunately, every hour that they spend out of school, distances them from it more and more. It distances them also and especially from their dreams.

The situation of children in the Kipushi quarries is a vicious circle. Should they leave the mine? But to go where? How would they live? To go to school? With what means? To follow a dream? So many questions without answers. The solution lies elsewhere, probably.

As young reporters, we feel obliged to denounce the situation of children working in the Kipushi mines and quarries. Disenfranchised and often victims of moral and physical violence, they have no lawyer to plead their case. Certainly, there are already some efforts being made but these remain inadequate and often poorly supervised.

Still today, Kipushi and the other mining sites where children work are testimony that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by the DRC, is not fully applied. We are calling on you, parents, decision-makers, political and administrative authorities, to take action within your respective areas of influence to end this situation and so that the children can find a happy existence on school benches.

After all, do we not say that today’s children are the Congo of tomorrow?

©Gulda El Magambo bin Ali
Kindly translated from French by Lisa Berthelot
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
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Bora a 14 ans et elle est enfant reporter à Lubumbashi. Plus tard elle veut être criminologue. Aujourd’hui elle s’attache à rassembler les enfants reporters de toutes les provinces pour que leur voix résonne jusqu’au bout du monde!

Bora is 14 years old and is a child reporter in Lubumbashi. In the future she would like to be a criminologist. Today, she is trying hard to bring together child reporters from all the provinces so that their voices will be heard in the far corners of the world!

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