Facing displacement alone
Tens of thousands of children are in hiding in the province of the North-Kivu, many of whom are unaccompanied or have been separated from their parents.
As you pass through the doors of Rutshuru day center, the joyful mix of children's cries and laughter reflects the gloomy atmosphere that reigns in the province of North Kivu. The brightly painted games and recreational activities delight the children who visit the center every day.
The latest wave of violence has driven 190,000 people from their homes in search of safety in different parts of the province. In the midst of chaos, many children arrived, alone or separated from their families, to sites for displaced people before being cared for in suitable structures.
At the day center, recreational activities are followed by quieter times when children weave baskets or learn new skills. It is during one of these workshops that Meschack shares his story. The 13-year-old boy was separated from his parents on the Congolese Independence Day.
"We didn't have school, so I took the cows grazing," recalls Meschack. When he was in the meadow, armed men came to seize the cattle. “They cut off the arms of the other friends who were with me and who wanted to resist”, explains the boy. Meschack then fled to avoid suffering the same fate.
Identified by UNICEF partners in a site for displaced people, Meschack was directed to the day center where he is being monitored by a psychologist. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that violence has struck the life of the young boy who lost his father in armed clashes earlier this year.
Meschack was placed in a foster family while waiting to be reunited with his biological family. "I feel better to be with other children in the foster family, I eat and sleep in good conditions," says Meschack. UNICEF and its partners have identified more than 650 children separated from their parents since March 2022, of whom more than 480 have already been reunited with their relatives.