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Priscillia with a megaphone
15 July 2020

Fighting coronavirus at 12

12-year-old fights COVID-19 in refugee camp

Imagine having to leave everything behind to keep your family safe, only to face a new deadly threat: COVID-19.

This is Priscillia’s reality.

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting people in every country, and every person on the planet has a role in preventing the spread. Here in the UK we’ve all had to make unprecedented sacrifices to protect each other and save lives. And we have witnessed the tireless dedication of staff in our amazing NHS.

But, as lockdown measures gradually lift here, people around the world now need our help: those in countries where there is no NHS; families who have fled violence, conflict and hunger – and who are now living in crowded refugee and displacement camps where social distancing is impossible.

Families fleeing conflict face a deadly new threat

12-year-old Priscillia (pictured top, and below with her family) fled from her home in the Central African Republic and now lives in a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo (classed as among the most fragile places in the world). Within the camp, this pre-teen has taken on a role as a ‘sensitiser’ – an advocate, talking with her peers and community about important issues. Here, she explains how her task has the potential to save her friends’ and neighbours’ lives.

A group of South Sudanese children

Before COVID-19: Working for a better future

“Before coronavirus, I was a sensitiser against sexual and gender-based violence. A World Vision team visited our camp and they trained me. With this knowledge, I began to help my friends avoid risky situations that could ruin their present lives and affect their future.

I liked to remind them that their future was in their hands.

Unfortunately, other children had already been abused for a long time, but they were afraid to reveal it. I encouraged them report it to their parents so that they could get proper care and so that their abusers could be prosecuted.

It makes me sad to see girls my age leaving school because they got pregnant after being raped. It revolts me and gives me the courage to talk about child protection in the camp.”

“Now coronavirus is stealing our childhood”

“My family and I became worried when it was described as a disease that kills rich and poor alike, across all continents without distinction of race, social class or age.

For us here at the camp, this disease increases our vulnerability as we find ourselves closed in, isolated. Right now, people don't want to come and visit each other because they're afraid of being infected. We also refuse to go to our neighbours to avoid getting the disease.

Our life is no longer the same. Our childhood is suffocated because schools and churches are closed.

“Our life is no longer the same. Our childhood is suffocated because schools and churches are closed.”

We can no longer meet our friends, play with children, pray together. Even our faith is affected.

And still today, we don't know when things will return to normal. We're like prisoners.

As part of the fight against coronavirus disease, World Vision has made us aware of the various prevention measures. I shared the message with my friends in the camp and asked my family to respect the rules of hygiene and social distancing to limit the spread."

A line of people in South Sudan queuing to wash their hands

A seed of hope

World Vision is also supporting Priscilla's family to earn a sustainable income. She says, “Several months ago, World Vision offered my mother a piece of arable land and seeds. She grew cassava, maize, peanuts and beans. After the first harvest, she was able to buy us uniforms and other school supplies. This field is also our breeding ground and our only resource. My mother processes the tubers to make cassava bread, which she sells. She can then pay for the food that is not in the field and feed us. In this period of coronavirus, this field has become even more important.”

A brighter future is possible

“My wish is to see all the children study and have a bright future. My parents didn't study, they didn't have the means. I want to have good support to progress in my studies. I dream of becoming a banker so that I can help my parents, my family and all the children who are suffering in refugee camps. My favourite lesson is mathematics.

I thank World Vision for training me as a sensitiser on gender-based violence and coronavirus prevention measures. I am very proud when I see people change their behaviour based on my advice.

I trust that my God will make us overcome COVID-19, the school will open and all activities will resume. Thank you.”

A mum and her daughter in South Sudan

DEC coronavirus appeal

Priscillia hopes for a brighter future, for herself and all vulnerable children like her. It is possible, if we all work together.

As one of the 14 DEC member charities, we need your help to:

  • provide families with clean water, soap and information on keeping themselves safe;
  • provide frontline medical and aid workers with equipment and supplies to care for the vulnerable and sick; and
  • ensure families get enough food to prevent malnutrition, particularly among children.

People who have suffered so much need your help now more than ever to face this new threat.

Please donate now.