Frontline Stories

Give New Hope to Migrants

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By Lucy Murunga

In a report released in October this year, the UN Refugee Agency warned that funding is falling increasingly behind as the number of forcibly displaced worldwide has grown. Four countries in Africa – Burundi, South Sudan, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo – are among the world’s six most-underfunded refugee and displacement contexts (Afghanistan and Syria are the others).

A 2017 report by the Norwegian Refugee Council cites Ethiopia, Burundi, South Sudan, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo among the top 10 world’s most neglected crises. Less media attention and low interest by international donors are stated as compelling reasons for underfunding.

As the funding falls or stagnates, the number of children on the move doesn’t.

A World Vision report released in June titled, Girls on the Move (click here to read) warned about the increasing number of children constantly on the move stemming from political instability and conflict, estimating then that five million children in eastern Africa had been forced to flee their homes.

In July, I spent time interviewing families who had been forced out of their homes due to inter-communal conflict in southern Ethiopia.

I witnessed untold suffering of children and their families in crowded unsanitary shelters in compounds of schools and churches, with barely anything to survive on. Children wandered about the compound, with nothing much to do.

Today the shelters have cleared, some families have returned to their homes, especially in areas where conditions allow. It will be a long road to recovery.

World Vision estimates that 40,000 pre-primary and primary school children missed at least five months of school due to conflict. School children have returned to extensively damaged classrooms, they lost virtually everything in the conflict.

Eight-year-old Tarikua, a grade two student, recalled how all her books had been destroyed in the conflict. “I only managed to preserve one,” she told me.

In September, World Vision provided new books, pens and other personal items to over 450 school children affected by the conflict. It was some relief not just for children like Tarikua but also for their parents.

How can we help them have hope for a better tomorrow?

When you see the faces behind these stories, for example of children arriving at border points having walked for days to safety, or children lining up waiting to be registered as refugees, you can’t help but be filled with compassion.

More can be done to rewrite their story. For example to ensure they go to school, they have enough to eat, they feel a sense of belonging, etc., just like other normal children.

Through its global campaign, World Vision continues to educate people how they can be a part of ending violence against children.

In South Sudan, World Vision is running a programme to reintegrate former child soldiers back into formal education. Across settlements in northern Uganda, World Vision runs Child Friendly Spaces that includes schools that enable South Sudanese refugee children to access education. In Rwanda refugee camps World Vision’s programmes are assisting refugee children to go to school, At least 27,000 from the DR Congo are supported with fees, from early childhood learning all the way to secondary school.

All these programmes require sustenance.

On this International Migrants Day (18 December), let’s re-focus our hearts and minds on how we can help these displaced and vulnerable children have hope for a better life.

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