Nights longer than days

UNICEF in the fieldYOUNG REPORTERIn order to reach the most remote children, UNICEF agents occasionally have to go through impossible moments: impractical roads, mud, dust,… Let me tell you about my most beautiful on-site mission, but also the toughest and the longest!

A long and difficult mission

I was so happy to learn that I was among the trainers of Young Reporters in the city of Isiro, in the neighbouring district of Haut-Uele, North of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In order to reach Isiro from Bunia, we had to drive for about 600 kilometres. I was with a UNICEF team who was organising programmatic visits and spot checks. The aim of these visits is to check the implementation of different programs and conduct financial controls.

We left Bunia on a Monday morning, hoping to be in Isiro on the Tuesday so we could start our various tasks on Wednesday. That hope slowly disappeared, as we made our way from one quagmire to another. Of all the missions carried out as a Child Reporter or a Young Report, this one was the longest and the toughest!

600 metres that felt longer than 600 kilometres

After crossing the beautiful Epulu reserve, an okapi wildlife reserve, for about a hundred kilometres, we finally made it to the district of Haut-Uele. We were hoping to make Isiro on the same day.

In front of us, a huge quagmire by the name of “musalaba” which, in Swahili, means the cross. Yes, it was an actual cross… A dozen vehicles were stuck and could neither move forward nor backward: the mud prevailed. Motorbikes and bicycles, the only safe forms of transportation on this road, were no exception. Even our Land Cruisers and their six cylinders were stuck!

It was almost noon. To cross that quagmire, to cross 600 metres, it took 24 hours… These 600 metres took longer than the 600 kilometres that we needed to travel.

It was almost as bad all the way

We couldn’t find a house to stay the night. So we slept in the cars, lulled by animal calls. At the crack of dawn, with renewed hope, we started working again towards getting the cars out of this place that, for some, would be forever cursed.

It was almost as bad all the way… the other passengers of the two UNICEF Land Cruisers and I kept losing hope but our valiant drivers didn’t! Whenever deemed necessary, they would use a hoe, a spade, a pickaxe, etc. to help the cars cross at the most impractical spots. Some young people from neighbouring villages worked really hard as well to help free the vehicles that were stuck in the mud. With a small compensation in return, it’s the equivalent of a casual job for them.

We came across quagmires all along the way. Mister Tchiza, from the UNICEF WASH program in Ituri, regularly travels this road and explains that “these are real issues we face and have to deal with every time we travel on this road”.

An incredible journey and experience

Today is Wednesday, the first day of training. It’s 6pm and we’re still in the middle of the forest… We’ve kept going for part of the night to finally reach Isiro, the capital of the district of Haut-Uele, after 11pm!

On Thursday morning, it was a new day. I started smiling again when I stood in front of nearly 70 children from town to start the training. Inquisitive and funny children, but above all, committed to and motivated by learning new notions.

Six days later, we had to go back to Bunia. It took another 4 days to reach our destination! Endless days and nights, considering the various ordeals we came across on the road. It’s time to remind the local authorities that the impracticality of some roads limits access to remote areas. Children are landlocked by the lack of adequate road infrastructure and can’t be assisted.

Being part of this incredible trip was, to me, the opportunity to see UNICEF personnel in the field. People that give, make sacrifices and accept to spend nights in the middle of nowhere for one reason only: make the world a better place for every child.

Other field reports :

Translated from French by Astrid Gouriten

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David a rejoint le Club d'Ecoute pour Enfants en 2012. Deux ans après, il en est devenu le porte-parole puis en 2015, le coordonnateur. La même année, David est devenu Enfant Reporter. Il présente également diverses émissions sur les droits de l'Enfant. "Parler des droits de l'Enfant via les médias, c'est ma préférence". David étudie le droit à Bunia et rêve de travailler à la défense des droits des plus vulnérables.

David joined the Children's Listening Club in 2012. Two years later, David became the spokesperson and in 2015 the coordinator. That same year, David became a child reporter. Since 2014, David has hosted various programmes on child rights.  "I want to use the media to talk about child rights”. David studies law in Bunia and dreams of working to protect the rights of the most vulnerable. He says he will always work for children.

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