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DRC: new insights on how to lift children out of poverty

In September 2007, UNICEF launched a global initiative for the comparative study of childhood poverty and disparities in 40 countries, with the aim of fostering understanding on how economic and social policies can better achieve results for children.

To obtain a holistic view of poverty, the study takes into consideration various aspects of poverty, such as monetary poverty, inadequate living conditions and deprivations.

Interview with Pierrette Vu Thi, UNICEF Representative in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on study on child poverty and disparities in DRC.

 Download the report (in French)

Q:  Why did UNICEF initiate this Child Poverty study in DRC?
A: This is a very important study because we know that in DRC about 8 out of 10 children under 18 do not have access to basic social services, and often the reasons are linked to poverty.

In order to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we need to be able to understand the causes of child poverty.  Better understanding helps all the partners, including UNICEF, to better target their policies and programnmes to achieve better results for children towards the MDGs

Q: What did this study on child poverty and disparities reveal?
A: The study shows that Congolese children face two types of poverty. They are affected by monetary poverty - 70% of the Congolese population live below the poverty line as defined by the World bank (less than one dollar per person per day). In addition, children are affected by non-monetary poverty or deprivations of rights in matter of access to education, health, safe water.

The study makes a distinction between these two types of poverty, monetary and non monetary, and how each type affects Congolese children. It also shows the disparities that exist between regions. 

Q: What are the main recommendations from the Study?
A: One of the main recommendations is to increase the proportion of the national budget allocated to health and education sectors.  For the last few years, these hovered between 4 and 7 per cent, which is absolutely insufficient.

Social protection also seems to be a pillar of the fight against child poverty. Given that poverty is widespread, improving access to quality social services requires examining all the interdependent factors that are influencing an issue.  We need to focus on both the offer and the demand of quality services.

For example, if you work to improve the quality of education, you need to make sure that parents won’t be prevented from sending their children to school because they cannot afford the fees.  If you improve the quality of health care, you need to ensure that every child has access to it.  Far too many times, children are not able to access health care because their parents are too poor to participate in the cost recovery schemes that still prevail.

Other recommendations from the study include improving living conditions at the household level.

Q: What do you see as complementary actions which government should initiate in relation to eliminating child poverty in DRC?
A: There are some important actions that should go hand in hand. One is to implement the recommendations made by the Committee on the rights of the child [that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child]. Also, the law on child protection which was promulgated early 2009 needs to be implemented across the country.  UNICEF will support the government in these two undertakings.

Q: What is UNICEF’s response to the Study?
A: UNICEF aims at improving the situation of children and ensuring that every child has access to quality basic services and can fulfil his rights.  The study will help the Government and its partners, including UNICEF to better target budgets, policies and programmes to achieve better results for children in the sector of education, health, water and sanitation and protection.

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