NEW YORK (December 11, 2012) — In the aftermath of the fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that led to the displacement of more than 130,000 people, some 250 schools in North and South Kivu provinces have been occupied or looted since September, UNICEF said today. UNICEF calls on all the parties involved in the fighting to vacate school buildings and ensure safe access to education for children.
The new clashes in North Kivu province of eastern DRC have brought the total number of schools affected by conflict this year to more than 600. At least 240,000 students have missed weeks of school since April as a result of the conflict. UNICEF announced that children received school kits distributed by local partners last week as some schools began to resume their activities.
As part of its emergency response in eastern DRC and in cooperation with the Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Professional Education, UNICEF is planning to cover the educational needs of all 240,000 children. The organization has appealed for nearly $6 million to fund educational activities in North and South Kivu in the coming months.
Many of those fleeing the violence have found refuge in schools that have been used as kitchens, canteens, dormitories, military barracks or ammunition storage places. In almost all conflict-affected classrooms, school furniture has been partially damaged or totally destroyed. Textbooks and school benches have even been used as firewood.
“In the last month access to education in eastern DRC has gone from bad to worse,” said Barbara Bentein, UNICEF Representative in DRC. “Some schools that had already been affected in April haven’t fully recovered. And now in other schools, the recent fighting has deprived Congolese children from accessing education. Bringing them back to school is vital to their protection—especially in troubled times. When not at school, children from North Kivu are more at risk of being exploited, abused and even recruited.”
“Missing more time of much-needed schooling would be a disaster,” said Maker Mwangu Famba, Minister of Primary, Secondary and Professional Education in DRC. ”We are concerned that many children may have difficulties catching up and taking their exams. They may even lose their entire school year or drop out. Every hour counts. Together with partners, we are in the process of ensuring that all schools are open and functioning as quickly as possible,” he added.
By the end of this year, 80,000 children from North Kivu will receive school kits currently being distributed by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF partners. Many displaced families who began returning home are scared to send their children back to school.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when ZERO children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.
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Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 646.428.5010, firstname.lastname@example.org