"People I did not know kidnapped me in Kinshasa; I stayed with them for six months […] My favourite toy is my teddy bear, I like to walk around with him and to give him hugs."
KANANGA, Democratic Republic of the Congo – The image of Ngalula Tshufuila Marie, 13, as she clutches her most prized possession, her teddy bear, stands in stark contrast to the traumatic experiences that have brought her here, pictured above at a Transition and Orientation Centre in Kananga, the capital city of the Kasai-Central Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Conflict has torn apart the Kasai region of the DRC since violence flared up in 2016, and children have been its main victims. In May 2018, at least half of all children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition, including 260,000 children who are at risk of dying because they are severely malnourished. Education has been disrupted, families have been displaced and children have been exploited as child soldiers.
However, since October 2018 the security situation has stabilized in parts of the region. Hundreds of thousands of Congolese who had fled into the bush or to neighbouring Angola are now returning to their communities. Many militiamen have also surrendered. Despite countless challenges, families are slowly rebuilding hope ─ and their lives.