Jesuits warn, war in Congo is having catastrophic impact on children

 Jesuit Refugee Services has expressed deep concern over the humanitarian catastrophe in the North Kivu, particularly the effects of the war on children. In a statement issued on 20 November, for Universal Children's Day, they said: "the ongoing war in eastern Congo is depriving a whole generation of their education, an essential factor for a successful reconstruction of the war-torn region."

The JRS has made an appeal to the Congolese government, rebel groups, and the international community, asking that child recruitment is halted and their protection is prioritized; education continues in a safe environment as soon as possible; education is an integral part of the emergency response and the necessary funding is provided.

According to JRS, hundreds of of thousands of children are currently prevented from attending school in conflict-ravaged North Kivu. In the Rutshuru area alone, theatre of the latest heavy fighting, 150,000 children are unable to pursue their studies. UN agencies estimate that 85% of schools remain closed. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the conflict has prevented children in North Kivu from pursuing their education. Without outside intervention, this war risks denying an education to a whole generation of Kivu children.

According to a statement from Fr Juan Jose Aguado, SJ, of JRS Goma: "While the schools are closed, children will experience this violence close up. We have to help them feel at peace with themselves and develop as human beings. This is a role of education, preventing them from becoming instruments of violence and destruction. It is not normally part of emergency humanitarian interventions but here and now education is more urgent than ever."

"Despite the obvious advantages in education in the current crisis - providing a sense of normalcy for the children, preparing them for the future, giving hope to families - it received only three percent of the international emergency fund for the Congo in September," JRS said.

Although a considerable increase, it is still not enough to guarantee quality education for the children in Kivu. By mid-2008, only 20 percent of the required education funding for the region had arrived. Donors need to increase the funding for emergency education. Thus, JRS is making an appeal asking that education be prioritized, along with the increase in funding in this area.

Since January, the JRS has managed primary and secondary education projects in North Kivu, skills training and support to vulnerable displaced people in Rutshuru and the IDP camps on the outskirts of Goma. In the last three months, more than 250,000 people in North Kivu have been forced to flee their homes, most of them children, bringing the total of displaced to between 1,3 and 2 million in the province alone.

Source: Fides

Share this story