What is World Vision doing to help children affected by the crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo?
World Vision is working with children and their families in east DRC, providing emergency relief in the short-term but also long-term sustainable support, helping the development of communities beyond the immediate crisis.
Since October 2007, more than 21,000 children in six Congo displacement camps have benefited from activities held in Child-Friendly Spaces
and trainings organized by our child protection teams.
Child-Friendly Spaces are safe places for children to play, learn and discuss important issues with trained staff.
Through its local protection committees, the organization is teaching leaders and children how to protect themselves, identify risks and mitigate the threats of violence.
World Vision is also providing much-needed nutrition treatment to more than 2,000 children suffering from moderate or severe malnutrition
We also partner with several local Non-Governmental Organizations that support disabled, abandoned, separated and orphaned children. Children’s groups are supported to carry out crucial advocacy work in the areas of child rights, sexual violence and justice, among others. What makes children vulnerable?
Of the quarter of a million people who have been displaced by conflict in Congo, approximately half of these are children.
Camps are densely crowded, chaotic environments in which there are no basic social services and police force is often absent.
This environment leads to a breakdown in society’s protective mechanisms for children. Children are more vulnerable to sexual violence, abuse and exploitation, recruitment into armed groups
, abduction, social exclusion and emotional distress.
Woman and girls are particularly vulnerable to rape and sexual violence. According to the UN, sexual violence against women and girls in Congo is the worst in the world.How do Child-Friendly Spaces help children?
Child-Friendly Spaces not only provide a safe and protective environment where children can overcome the emotional stress of conflict, they also continue to be a strategic point of identification and referral of child protection concerns.
Children and adolescents receive psychosocial support, stimulating their learning and well-being in a protective environment.
Activities include sports, learning about hygiene, drawing and sewing. Older children take part in vocational activities such as sewing and carpentry. Through Child-Friendly Spaces, children have found something new in their lives to be excited about, despite the ensuing conflict.
Discussion groups also provide an opportunity for children to discuss issues affecting them in their community and how to respond to them.
Additionally, Child-Friendly Spaces have also played a peace-building and reconciliation role by gathering children from different ethnic groups and origins, teaching them to live together as part of one community and cement their relationships, helping to prevent inter-community conflicts.
When the child protection program started, children were drawing helicopters, guns, blood, houses on fire, bombs and people with one leg. During drawing sessions, they portrayed every type of imaginable violence, including sexual violence against women and girls. Now, thanks to the support provided by the Child-Friendly Spaces, they are drawing nature, flowers, donkeys, rivers, and houses.What is World Vision doing to address sexual violence in the DRC?
Prevention of violence has to be tackled from many angles. Because of our proximity to communities, World Vision works directly with families to identify and mitigate the vulnerability of women and girls. We are working with those affected to reduce the chances of violence.
For example, we have begun introducing fuel-efficient stoves
in camps, because many women and children are highly vulnerable to rape while in the forest collecting firewood. Fuel-efficient stoves require far less fuel and help cut down exposure to violent attacks.
We have also established community-based protection committees in camps to monitor the external security situation and report on protection issues and incidence of violence in the camps. Community escort committees accompany women in activities that expose them to threats including collection of firewood.
Other initiatives include strengthening the community’s early warning mechanisms to respond to conflict in a timely manner. The early warning and monitoring system keeps community committees updated on security situations in surrounding areas and identifies if people need to evacuate and when it is safe to return home. Additionally, World Vision will soon be distributing mobile phones and whistles to the committees.
World Vision is training militia, local authorities and police forces in human rights, international humanitarian law and local law, helping them to better protect the local population.
We also work collaboratively with Heal Africa
, an NGO providing specialized care to victims of sexual violence.
World Vision is a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to helping children and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty. We serve the world’s poor regardless of a person’s religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press