By Cornelia Walther
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, 3 November 2011- With the official campaign for the second Presidential Elections in Congo’s history underway, the Democratic Republic of Congo may be on the verge of a major change.
|VIDEO: UNICEF reports on the need to prioritize children's rights as the official campaigns for the upcoming Presidential elections get underway in DR Congo. Produced by Edward Bally. Watch in RealPlayer|
Later this month, on November 28th, the Congolese people will get to choose between 11 candidates for the highest representation of the state. The people are watching the events unfold with high expectations, hoping for change - especially for the country’s youth
“The government has to put a lot of himself to create a good educational environment for children that will help build a new Congo,“ said Jonas Kambiena, founder of the NGO Human Rights Forum for Democracy and Good Governance (FDBG). “We’ll achieve this new Congo only if we center our preoccupations on the education of Congolese children.”
Change for youth
Recently, the government, along with UNICEF and other partners, released a study which reveals the challenges facing DR Congo’s youth in terms of health, education and protection of children. According to the report, progress is underway, yet much more needs to be done.
|© UNICEF video|
|A new study conducted by UNICEF and partners reveals that two-thirds of the children in DR Congo now go to school.|
Today, one in seven Congolese children die before the age of five and almost half of all children below five years of age are stunted. In 2010 only one in seven people lived in acceptable hygienic conditions and barely half of the population had access to drinking water. This situation has hardly changed over the past ten years, and today cholera is on the rise with nearly 17,000 notified cases so far in 2011.
In DR Congo, the future government will have to address the many issues the nation’s youth are facing.
“The rights of children is a problem in our country,” explained Celestin Kabamba Kamat, assistant of the ministry of social affairs in the Mongafula Zone. “Despite some shortcoming of the government, we manage to partner with International organizations and NGOs to try and give children what they need.”
|© UNICEF video|
|Despite its vast mineral wealth, DR Congo has the worst human development index in the world.|
Future at stake
UNICEF, together with the government of Congo, has been implementing many programs to help children in need.
”Whoever the winner of the coming elections will be,” said UNICEF Deputy Representative in DR Congo Steven Lauwerier, “UNICEF wants him to put his heart into children’s rights. And by that I mean the right to education, health, and protection, so that we can hope that the progress we have seen in this country the last few years are confirmed.”
In Congo, the coming weeks will be of crucial importance for all actively involved in political and civil society, to ensure the rights of children are at the heart of the debates in the next elections.