EMBARGOED TO THE MEDIA UNTIL TUESDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2003, 1100 HRS NEW YORK TIME

 
 

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Hear Our Voices - Burundi

Isador and Melchior find protection

Isador arrived with his brother Melchior in Karago camp in a remote region of Western Tanzania in March 2000. Their story is not clear. They do not know how old they are or what part of Burundi they came from. All that is known is that their parents were killed in an attack on their home, after which they fled across the border to the refugee camps. Isador, the younger of the two, has barely spoken a word since.

Jasna Blasko, a child protection officer and head of the UNICEF office in Kibondo, has been trying to help them. Working through art, she tries to help these traumatized children overcome the horrors they have witnessed. Clutching a handful of crayons, Isador draws a picture of what he would like to be in the future. The boys are part of a group of 20 children aged between 6 and 16, who spend a rainy afternoon drawing pictures and dreaming of their future as presidents, drivers and farmers. Jasna and her small team of social workers try to piece together how these young unaccompanied minors came to the camp and help them to trace their families. She sees the sessions as a way to build up a sense of trust on the part of the children so they will be willing to share any small recollections that may help to identify their families.

Child protection issues are many, and unaccompanied minors like Isador and his brother, are often most at risk. They not only face the trauma and pain of the past but also the daily threat of ongoing violence within the camps. Living alone, these children must struggle to protect themselves and the little they have.

It is in very difficult circumstances that UNICEF continues to provide not just basic services for children but tries to ensure that their rights are also protected.

Photo: UNICEF

 

Copyright  2003  UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs