Safe spaces to play and learn and heal

The Friends of Children Spaces offer a bit of respite to children affected by conflicts and violence.

Typhaine Daems (translated from French by Darren Ou Yong)
Des enfants déplacés dans un espace ami des enfants à Bunia
UNICEF DRC Desjardins
27 February 2020

At first glance, you only notice the smiles on the children's faces. However, the little girls and boys fled their village and were present at events that no child should see: fires, murders, pillaging, destruction, etc. All these children were victims of interethnic violence that is ravaging the Ituri province.

Des enfants déplacés dans un espace ami des enfants à Bunia
UNICEF DRC Desjardins

Every day, the Friends of Children Space, installed in the heart of a camp for displaced persons in Bunia, welcomes several hundred children who fled the violence. “I like coming here a lot because I can play with other children,” explains Moise, who comes from a small village in the Djugu area. A year ago, his father was killed during an attack on his village and, a few months ago, his mother was fatally wounded when their village was burned.

Even at 12 years of age, Moise took the decision to flee with his two young sisters. A neighbour, who also fled the village, took the three orphans into his care. Today, they live in the camp for displaced persons. To help his host family, the young boy does small jobs and earns a bit of money everyday from selling water, from transport, and other tasks.

Life in the camp is not easy for the children. Deprived of leisure and education, and often obliged to work to provide for family needs, the children are deprived of their childhood. Thanks to the Friends of Children Space established by UNICEF in the camp, the children have a safe place to learn, play, make friends, and become children again.

Moise, 12 ans, a fui les violences de la province de l'Ituri
UNICEF DRC Hubbard

For a few hours, Moise forgets the violence he faces. Moise also learns more general life skills as well, like how important it is to maintain good hygiene by washing one’s hands to avoid diseases like Ebola.

Even though his life has been marked by dramatic events and though his living conditions are not enviable, Moise is confident and full of hope for the future. “Soon, I am going to attend school again and become a doctor,” concludes the young boy and future distinguished doctor.

In 2019, UNICEF and its partners provided 171,560 children affected by humanitarian crises such as Moise with access to psychosocial services and safe spaces to learn, be with their friends and regain a sense of normalcy in their lives.