A new Home for Zawadi and Lontina
Three year* old Zawadi is a happy and healthy child, running and playing around makeshift compound at Kenani Transit Centre. She is at ease in her surroundings and with other children. At first glance, one cannot imagine that she is an unaccompanied minor whose parents no one seems to know their whereabouts.
Zawadi was found with Lontina, a five year* old also unaccompanied minor, on the DRC side of the border where the soldiers were keeping them, hoping that someone would take them along on their way to Zambia, fleeing the conflict that has rocked the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Many families refused to take Zawadi and Lontina into their care. Their fate was uncertain until Muzungu Ngobola, a teacher fleeing the conflict in DRC took pity on the two crying children and took them with her.
“I don’t know where they come from, who their families and parents are or where they are. All I know is that they are not related.” Explains Muzungu.
Muzungu herself being a mother explained that she took pity on the young children and saw them as a gift from God. “I have registered them as unaccompanied and I continue to look after them as if they were my own children. If their parents are found, I will be happy to see them reunified with their parents.” Says Muzungu.
Muzungu, laments how the conflict has displaced not only families but has separated children from their parents, their siblings and other relatives they know causing children to exhibit trauma in different ways. “Lontina has moments when she just starts crying, asking for her mother. I don’t know how to comfort her or what to tell her except that I am here for her as her new mother until we find her mother.” Says Muzungu. Bearing testimony to what Muzungu says, Lontina seems withdrawn and is not as playful as the other children.
Save the Children is responding to the refugee influx by providing protection and education services to children in the transit centres. Save the Children trains Zambia Red Cross volunteers to identify unaccompanied and separated children and track their families so that they are reunited. Save the Children is part of the community panel that reviews their needs and provides alternative care options to ensure that they are safe and protected. We also strengthen community child protection committees within the refugee camp through training on child protection issues and how to address child protection concerns.
Save the Children through Child Friendly Spaces is helping children to find safe spaces to play and learn. We are also helping children by providing psycho-social support to help them recover from the impact of the conflict. Save the Children is providing access to education through assessment of children, provision of temporary learning spaces that provide basic education and early child education, training teachers, providing learning materials and improving capacity of teachers. We also participated in a gender equality assessment in collaboration with UNHCR that will inform our programming.