On May 22, 2021 the Nyiragongo volcano near the city of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congoerupted and burned down schools and homes and many people became internally displaced in nearby villages that escaped the lava flow. This situation caused several material and psychological damage to the point of significantly affecting the children on their mental health. It has also increased the rate of sexual and gender-based violence in the sense that families in distress no longer know how to control the movements of their children and others deliver them up for sexual slavery and other acts of sexual abuse. People with responsibility in IDP sites as well as people with better livelihoods use their influence to perpetrate acts of sexual harassment and sexual exploitation and abuse. All these scourges worsen the living conditions of children and women in particular, but also of the whole community in general. In view of these challenges and without taking into account the lack of funds, ASUCO ASBL has launched general protection activities in order to help alleviate the suffering of the community.
This report describes the conduct of some protection activities carried out for children, young girls and young women during the month of September 2021.
During this month of September 2021, ASUCO achieved the following main activities:
This campaign has been initiated regarding the conditions in host schools where children as well as teachers are internal displaced in the same conditions of vulnerability. As the school year is scheduled for October 2021, the start of the school year will be timid and the affected parents will not be able to cover school fees and school supplies for their children. The success of the fundraising campaign launched by ASUCO ASBL is a solution to save lives for children in vulnerable situations.
In order to stabilize the mental health of the children, protect them against any incident and allow parents to continue to make efforts for the survival of households after the disaster, ASUCO ASBL organized 14 days of childcare out of the 21 days of vacation.
During this period, 209 children (90 girls and 119 boys) benefited from psychological and psychosocial support sessions, language training sessions (English, French), eloquence competitions, lessons on children’s rights and duties, on good manners, good citizenship, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, leadership, etc.
Group counseling session and support in school supplies for children
To motivate children for the start of the school year scheduled for October, prepare them psychologically for the start of classes and encourage parents not to leave them without having them enrolled in school because of the challenges that their households are going through, ASUCO ASBL has given some notebooks and pens to children at the end of a group counseling sessions.
130 children got each one 20 notebooks and 2 pens, apart from prizes given to 15 children who have answered to questions during practical stages
Conference on prevention of gender-based violence / sexual exploitation and abuse / sexual harassment
42 young people aged 15 to 35 were gathered in conference (22 girls and 20 boys) to discuss and make a decision to contribute to putting an end to the cycle of sexual and gender-based violence, sexual abuse and exploitation and cases of sexual harassment in the community and work environment. ASUCO ASBL called on the MONUSCO / SPT-SGBV to lead this session with young people determined to contribute to the eradication of these anti-values within the society which suffers from several ailments.
VSLA Program with disaster-stricken families
ASUCO ASBL has continued with the VSLA program (Village Savings and Loans Association) by giving small loans to disaster-stricken families in order to initiate small scale activities. A new group of women has been added to the number of groups supervised by ASUCO and is benefitting from psychological support sessions and guidance after the volcano disaster.
Training of young girls in sewing and implementation of a peer education strategy
In order to combat SGBV committed against young girls in particular, limit unwanted pregnancies and promote sexual and reproductive health for them, ASUCO ASBL has launched a peer education program. The young girls attend to weekly sessions and 14 of them also receive training in sewing.
SUCCESS STORIES AND LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE IMPLEMENTED ACTIVITIES
During the implementation of activities and through them, we have noticed and learned that:
- Caring children while their parents are in difficult situations provides joy to parents, because they work on other priorities of their households without worrying about the security of their children. Lots of parents have come to ASUCO office to testify that they children have learned good manners during our summer camp and that they have been showing new good behavior at home. Others said they wouldn’t be able to take care of their children well while looking for food in different ways after the volcanic eruption that burnt down their homes.
- With a little money, it’s possible to save lives that were in danger of perishing. Children as well as parents testified that holidays always bring to lots of bad consequences, and that the 21 days of vacation should have brought children to unwanted pregnancies, theft, and other deviations. Thanks to the money that ASUCO got from Yolk, we have been able to organize fun activities and motivate parents to get their children enrolled to the starting school year scheduled in October 2021 through the notebooks and pens distributed to children. Parents still repeat that due to the disaster they were already discouraged and frustrated to have their children enrolled to the starting school year. They’re wondering about the lack of school fees that constitutes obstacle to their freedom in getting their children enrolled. Thanks to this charity action achieved by ASUCO, they are now ready to let their children go to school hoping that their initiatives will increase and help them honor their duties of schooling children.
- It’s important not to neglect any help someone has to alleviate the suffering of people in need. The activities carried by ASUCO for the needy people after the volcanic eruption brought surprisingly best results and highly contributed to the resilience of disaster people. This encourages us to do our better and contact our potential donors knowing that their help will strengthen the hopeless people.
CHALLENGES FACED BY ASUCO ASBL AND MEANS OF MITIGATION
- Great number of people in need of assistance (disasters and other vulnerable)
- Non-existence of fund to sponsor studies of disaster-stricken children
- Lack of contacts who are involved in the fundraising on behalf of the ASUCO non-profit organization and who can help collecting funds using their ways or sharing the fundraising campaign link to their friends and potential donors
- Insufficient resources to significantly support people in need and stabilize our programs
- Lack of contingency funds to allow real-time intervention.