JRS is deeply concerned about the humanitarian catastrophe in the North Kivu, particularly the effects on children. JRS fears that 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.
On 20 November, Universal Children's Day, JRS urges the Congolese government, armed rebel groups and the international community to ensure:
- child recruitment is halted and their protection is prioritised;
- 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.
Hundreds 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 in the last 12 years. Without outside intervention, this war risks denying an education to a whole generation of Kivu children.
"I remember seeing some graffiti by a young child of a man killing another. 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" stated Juan Jose Aguado SJ, JRS Goma.
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. 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.
Since January 2008, 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.
JRS employs more than 1,400 staff: lay, Jesuits and other religious to meet the education, health, social and other needs of 500,000 refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, over half of whom are women. Its services are provided to refugees regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs.
James Stapleton, International Communications Coordinator; tel: +39 06 68 977390; +39 346 234 3841;