17/08/2011 - Child Protectin Plan seeks to put street children into family-based care; "an institution is an option of last resort"
Events surrounding 2011’s Day of the African Child helped launch a campaign to mobilize fundraising towards Katanga’s Child Protection Plan for 2011-2014, designed to target 27,000 orphans and vulnerable children. Katanga is a province found in Southern DR Congo. Fundraising events sought to raise $4 million for the child protection plan.
The outline of the plan places emphasis on family-based care, with the Minister of Mines, Gender, Family and Children emphasizing that “The government does not see the development of a child happening outside of his or her family framework. If this framework is absent or insufficient we must identify and reinforce viable alternatives. Putting street children and orphans in an institution is an option of last resort.”
Speaking to the issue, UNICEF’s Head of Southern DR Congo, Quoc Dang Nguyen stressed the need for a shared responsibility.
"What we are looking for is to leverage support,” he said. “We want to increase the number of allies who strive to make child protection a reality for every child in Katanga. We have a social and corporate responsibility today for the generation of tomorrow."
Making the Provincial Child Protection plan operational must be a priority as children in the DRC face multiple challenges to their survival, health, and welfare. The effects on ongoing conflict have resulted in high incidences of sexual violence and the use of child soldiers by armed groups.
According to the UN, in 2010, 14,591 new cases of sexual violence were reported in DRC, including thousands of children.
Progress has been made is reintegrating former child soldiers back into their communities, with nearly 5,000 children going through such programs in 2010 alone. However, the threat of increased recruitment remains with any resurgence of violence.
The impact of conflict on children is far-reaching. Around 1.7 million adults and children have been displaced in recent years, with nearly half a million refugees seeking shelter in other countries. Many of them have lost everything.
They remain cut off from basic services, and children do not receive clean water, adequate sanitation, enough food to eat, an education or basic health care. According to the 2010 Multi Indicator Cluster Survey in the DRC, one in seven children in DRC dies before reaching the age of five. Almost half of all children under five suffer from stunted growth, a direct result of nutrient deficiency. Less than half the population has access to safe drinking water. Two thirds of children have no birth certificate.
A 2006 report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) entitled “What Future?: Street Children in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” documented the lives of fifty street children – those who lived without protection or supervision from responsible adults.
The testimonies received by HRW detailed the abuses suffered by street children, and also how they were a rather new concept in the DRC. Contributing factors include the breakdown of traditional family support structures due in large part to the prevalence of HIV/Aids, as well as increased conflict, rising unemployment, rural to urban migration and the inability of parents to pay school fees.
Many government institutions for children were shut down in the 1970s after they went into disrepair.