COVID-19: emergency assistance for street children

UNICEF provides assistance to emergency shelters that create a family atmosphere for the most vulnerable children in Kinshasa.

John Ngombua (translated from French by Marg McMillan)
Children playing together
06 August 2021

Gabriela who is 11 years old, is playing a game of hopscotch with a dozen other children in the yard of the Bandalungwa emergency shelter located in the middle of Kinshasa, capital city of the Democratic Republic of (DRC). Dressed in a bright colored top, the little girl is jumping every which way.

It was only a few days ago that Gabriela and her 7 year-old brother were caught up with the harsh reality of Kinshasa streets. Abandoned time and again by their mother and then their father – divorced and remarried – the two children found themselves on the street. "I never thought I would find myself on the street one day, rejected by my parents", explained Gabriela. "I was miserable on the street but I did everything I could to protect my little brother", continued the little girl who had to resort to beg for food.

According to the latest figures, there are between 60,000 and 70,000 children living on the streets of Kinshasa. Most of them come from impoverished areas that have been greatly affected by the successive socio-economic crises, especially the one brought on by the coronavirus.

Gabriela and her brother were spotted by one of the para-social workers supported by UNICEF and were referred to the Ministry of Social Affairs emergency shelter. 

Gabriella talks with the manager of a reception center.

"I felt really welcomed and I thank God for having sent my way a kind person like Mama Fanny", said Gabriela. Fanny Kamueni is in charge of the para-social workers at the Bandalungwa centre. "It is Dikando, one of my colleagues, who alerted me about Gabriela and her brother's situation", said Fanny Kamueni. 

Now that she is away from the streets, Gabriela hopes to be able to go back to school soon and resume the studies she had to stop. "I want to be a nurse so I can take care of others", added Gabriella.

Since March 2020, UNICEF has taken in more than 600 children in two emergency shelters thanks to the support of the Canadian Government. During their stay at the shelters, children  receive care for one month before being sent to their families, foster parents or other facilities for an indefinite period. Girls and boys are encouraged to go to school and to  pursue vocational training.