Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has created one of the world's worst child protection crises.
Since August 2018, Ebola has shaken the people of DRC with 2,794 cases of infection and 1,844 deaths and is showing no signs of slowing (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 18 August 2019).
Our dedicated health workers in the field along with faith leaders and teachers are helping raise awareness and distributing hygiene kits to help prevent the loss of more lives to the deadly disease.
These children need our support to escape and recover from the violence they have witnessed, experienced or been forced to take part in.
World Vision is working to meet children's basic needs and provide safe spaces where they can play and learn as children should. Without such support, there is the real danger that children will continue to be drawn into the conflict.
Mass displacement has been driven by a complicated mix of violence between local militias, anti-government insurgencies, inter-ethnic tensions and pro-government movements.
This has caused loss of life and damage to homes and infrastructure. It has also affected people's ability to farm and produce food.
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As the fighting has waned, about half of those displaced have cautiously returned home to destroyed villages. They are in urgent need of food, shelter and psychosocial support.The conflict has caused many to flee into neighbouring Angola, Uganda and Zambia. Meanwhile, more than 760,000 people remain internally displaced.According to the UN, physical wounds and distress from the violence are going untreated. Pregnant women aren't receiving care and people don't have access to clean water or toilets.With up to four planting seasons missed, it's estimated that 3.2 million people are without a reliable food supply, placing children at risk of severe acute malnutrition.
Now, the spread of Ebola is growing bigger, adding more strain to an already distressed population and claiming more lives with each passing day.
Latest estimates suggest that 7 million children have been affected by the conflict. The UN World Food Programme reports that 300,000 children are malnourished and at risk of dying. Up to 150,000 children of primary school age are being denied access to education in Kasai Central Province, following confirmed attacks on 400 schools, of which at least 260 were destroyed.
Children have been actively recruited by various militias and self-defence groups. It is estimated that some 60 percent of all fighters are under 18, the majority under 15, and the youngest just five years old. Recently demobilised children require psychological support and rehabilitation services to help them rejoin their families, go back to education and regain their childhoods.
World Vision staff conduct a food distribution in the Tshikula area of Kasai Central.
World Vision is working closely with local and international organisations to provide immediate and long-term relief, particularly in the Kasai region, where we have been working since July 2017. We are one of the key partners working with the UN World Food Programme. So far, we distributed food and cash relief to over 400,000 people.
In addition, we are working with UNICEF on education and sanitation programs. As part of this, 15,000 children have received back-to-school packs to encourage them to register for school after returning home from the bush. We are also helping to rehabilitate schools by repairing 81 classrooms, providing teacher training and supporting children to catch up with their learning.
World Vision staff report that children returning from active engagement in the conflict are likely to go back to this is they have no other options. To break this cycle, it's essential that these children have access to a safe environment and the chance to return to school. Working with a local aid group, we are operating child friendly spaces to provide children affected by the conflict with care and support. Six child friendly spaces are running now, with eight more planned to open in Kasai in the coming months.