In the South of the Democratic Republic of Congo lays the Greater Kasai region (composed of Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental, Sankuru, Lomami), a zone marking the border with Angola.  A crisis sparked in September 2016, one month after a local customary chief of the Kamuina Nsapu was murdered during a military operation for his uproar against a set of actions led by the regional and central state power concerning the allocation of governance titles (for more information consult this article) A militia took roots in a movement that initially fought against symbols of the centralized state power and progressively took tribal and ethnic twist, because of the expressive outburst of the pre-existing tensions amongst different ethnical communities linked to the governance titles. It is also understood to be the local manifestations of political rivalry at the national level. Unprecedented violence has followed. More than a year and a half later, fear is still palpable everywhere.

Witnessing the bloody confrontations between the militias, the police and the Regular Army of Congo (FARDC), populations have fled massively in search for security. Severe exactions have been inflicted by both camps; summary executions, abductions and sexual, Many villages were attacked and burnt down. The displaced populations Around 1.5 Millions, amongst which 850.000 children ended up in spontaneous host families, improvised camps in the bush, without any structured camps or assistance at their disposition. By the date of November 2018, 800.000 people are still displaced. This crisis has let to a 750% increase in acute food insecurity.

This situation, which is already unbearable for adults, touches children at the forefront. Around 40 to 60% of children constitute the ranks of the militia. Most of them aren’t older than 15, many haven’t yet reached 10 years old and girls are not spared. If they are enrolled, they are still exposed to many kinds of violence: Murders, physical and psychological violence, sexual abuse and exploitation, forced enrolment in the militia, especially children who separated from their families in the displacements and were left to their own without any social support. This alarming situation doesn’t leave the humanitarian community at rest.

The NGO SAPI, dedicated amongst other to the protection of children, is present on the territories since August and facilitates a six months emergency support Project financed through UNICEF and devoted to the protection of children in the region. The Quick responses that SAPI can offer to children’s difficulties are many:

Child Friendly Spaces

SAPI has already built two Children Friendly Spaces, near Kamako and in Tshibala. These places, which are constituted of a local style shed with low walls, arranged football and volleyball fields, swings and multiple toys, accommodate each an average of 400 children everyday. Children who have left the militia, children who have been separated (unaccompanied), as well as vulnerable children from the locality can find security and mentoring in theses places. They are also invited to take part in pedagogical activities about basic health and social skills around peaceful coexistence, tolerance and good behaviour to your peers. Globally these places are meant to alleviate their recent psychological wounds by facilitating recreation and socialisation.

“Listening Check Point” (Point d’Ecoute) were placed in four different locations with the purpose of collecting and welcoming children who need a securing place to be heard. Our agents are made conscious of the psychological stress that can affect the youth as victims or witness of violence. They pay specific attention and direct them to specific care structure when need be.

 

A care taker in front of the CFS in Tshibala, territory Kazumba Children play a skipping rope game in the EAE of Tshibala
Soccer game in Tshibala Children participate in a group activity in the EAE of Kamako
On the occasion of the international Child soldier day, this 12 february 2018, a joyful cultural activity was organized in Luiza with the children who left the militia. Many local groups were invited to accompany the children in the demonstration of traditional dances and other types of games. Young boys strike a pose in Kamako

Local Network and awareness rising activities

 An essential key of the project is to involve local communities, not only through the participation of local children but also, through local protection mechanisms. SAPI has already set up 6 Community Networks for the Protection of Children ( in French: RECOPES : Réseaux Communautaires pour la Protection de Enfants), respectively in Tshibala, Kamaku, Luiza, Yangala, Luambo et Masuika. These networks are informed about children rights and reporting of the cases of abuse and violation of these. They are in charge of following the cases and bring them to the medical or psychological structures that can take care of them, as well as the juridical structure that can prosecute the actors of violence.

These networks are awareness rising forces throughout the regions. SAPI supports them, as well as three other partner organisations working in the protection of children’s rights, CAPSM, TDH, et AJID, in financial and material terms: amongst others, T-shirts, leaflets, and megaphones for the broadcasting of awareness rising message. SAPI has also created a radio spot on the topic for local radios. Bicycles were also distributed to facilitate their daily working and awareness rising tours.

 

8. sign in front of the RECOPE office in Luambo 9 The RECOPES of Tshibala receiving their bicycle grant
10 The RECOPE of Yangala was just formed and briefed. 11 One of SAPI awareness rising leaflet in the fight against rape and sexual violence towards children. “ It is a matter of All.”
12 Awareness rising T-shirt in the local language Tshiluba: “ Dear parents and community volunteers, protect your children as well as their rights.” 11 Capacity building workshop in Kamako, on the IDTR procedure (identification, documentation, tracing and reunification), Care taking (Prise En Charge) and Children rights.

IDTR procedure

The Children who left the militia and the non-accompanied children are Identified and Documented through the help of SAPI’s partnering NGOs and the RECOPES. These children go through a deeper interview where their experience is collected in order to provide the most accurate information about their situation and ensure the most ample support towards them. Their identification allows them receive a militia exist certificate. This practice is common to many humanitarian NGO’s working in this domain. SAPI reports these numbers to UNICEF and to the MONUSCO. After Identifying and documenting, a Tracing process takes place in which our agents search for their families. Once found, they travel kilometres by motorcycle or car to bring them back to their homes. We make sure that the area won’t put the family and the child in further danger and when need be, we have searched for other family members to host them until the security of the zone improves. Local community leaders are also engaged in the activities and informed about the unwinding of the procedure. This process has a ceremonious feel when we read the reunification documents out loud as a statement of responsibility of the family and the entire community towards children. In deed, they have a responsibility in preventing future enrolment in the militia. Before they leave for their village, SAPI offers the child a reunification Kit which is composed of a fresh complete set of clothing plus underwear,  a pair of shoes and a pair of sandal, a backpack and a toothbrush and toothpaste set. By this month of March 2018, SAPI has identified 1721 children who left the militia and 671 unaccompanied one. 323 have already been reunited to their families.

 

14. The Local RECOPE are filling a Research plan to go on the search of the separated children’s families 15. This girl is on the way to be reunited with her family in the Zone of Tshibala.
16. After being reunited the family members and our Staff proceed to some formalities around Kamonia. 17. These boyes were just reunified to their families on the territory of Kamako.
18 This Girl was just reunited with her family in the territory of Kamonia. 19. This mother just got reunited with her little son, in the region of Kazumba.

Transitory Homes and follow up

Before being reunited, the children who haven’t found spontaneous host families are placed in Transitory Host Families. To this date, 226 children have transited through these provisory homes. The families are briefed about the role of a care family, and on the procedures and formalities. We give a small financial support to the families, to make sure the child is fed. We have also built a Transitory foster Centre in Luiza Center, which allows us to offer a bed, a meal, similar activities as the CFZ, as well as a psychological and medical care to 29 children at the time, before we find their families. To this date 120 children have transited by this place.

The fundamental of a holistic support project is to offer a continuous care and psychological support to children from host homes to their place of reunification.

 

20 The Transitory foster Centre in Luiza Center welcomes children who were affected by the milicia and offers them psycho-social support and educational and professional orientation. 21. View on the inner court of the transitory center
22: Voluntary AIDS screening at the ISLAMIC Medical Center 23 Medical examination for children identified in Luambo. More than a half of the children suffer from one or two of these diseases: malaria, intestinal parasites, Rhinopharyngitis or dermatosis (amongst other). Many also suffer from post traumatic stress.
24. Capacity building session in Luambo on the guidelines for Transitory Host families; selection procedure, roles and responsibilities of the host parents in the protection of children. 25. Capacity building session for Transitory Host families in Tshibala.

During the next four months, SAPI will focus its energies onto the Socio-economic reintegration of the youth. Around 100 of them will take part in our workshops and benefit from a micro-credit to materialize their future visions in the form of business cooperatives. SAPI will continue its hard working commitment to bring adequate responses to the problematic of child protection in the region.