More than 1,000 children who were displaced by fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are undergoing psycho-social support to help them cope with the difficulties they are facing.
Under the Children Facility Spaces (CFS), the children engage in several activities aimed at keeping them occupied amidst the unfamiliar environment they find themselves in.
At Bubukwanga transit camp in Bundibugyo district, there are several children aged between 3 and 17 years. They are engaged in activities like singing, dancing, playing football and being told stories by staff from several humanitarian organizations. Some of the children were also being counseled. The CFS is being run by Save the Children and World Vision.
Every morning, the children are taken to the centre by their parents. The facility which is fenced off from the main transit camp is restricted to only children. In the facility, there is water, toilet facilities and playing toys for the younger children. The children are also given clothes, food and medical care.
Ronald Matanda, the World Vision Programme Officer, says that through the CFS, the children are being protected from abuse and harmful practices. Matanda also says that when the children are put together, they interact, play and forget the problems they are facing as refugees.
Matanda says that in some cases, when there are no activities especially for the young girls, they can easily fall prey to defilers or be employed as housemaids. He says the space will remain until the refugee crisis stabilizes.
Joyce Mbambu, one of the counsellors at the children facility, says since last week she has counselled more than 200 children who fled the fighting with their parents. Mbambu says girls are also sensitized about the dangers of early pregnancy and HIV/AIDS.
According to Mbambu, they plan to introduce special sessions for women refugees and sensitise them on issues of reproductive health HIV/AIDS and Human rights.
She however says that there is still a challenge of language barrier since some of the children can’t understand the local language. Mbambu says they are sometimes forced to use the services of police officers who speak Kiswahili, which is mostly spoken and understood by the children.
Felix Nzinto, aged 14, says he is happy to interact with many children he had never met before. He however says that he is eager to return home and continue with his education.
Speaking through an interpreter, Joan Nzanta, a mother of five, says that she is happy that her children are kept occupied by the activities at the space, which enables her to return to her home 10 kilometers away or search for any income generating activity in Bundibugyo.
At least 16,000 Congolese refugees are at Bubukwanga transit camp after fleeing fighting between government forces and rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).