Vulnerable Children in Chad Receive Protection from Jesuit-founded NGO amid Crisis

Children activities organized by Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI) in Chad.
Credit: Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI)

Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI) is protecting thousands of children in Chad amid years of violence in the Lake Chad region occasioned by Boko Haram insurgency, the leadership of the entity founded by a Jesuit Cleric has said in a latest report.

“Since 2013, COOPI has been responding to the crisis in Lake Chad, one of the most serious in Africa, by protecting children, helping to overcome trauma, providing education in emergencies, promoting livelihoods and pacifying communities,” the leadership of the Italy-based agency says in a Tuesday, January 12 report obtained by ACI Africa.

Situated in North-west Africa, the Lake Chad region, which encompasses Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad, has been rocked in violence pitting terror group Boko Haram and military forces since 2009.

The conflict has led to the killing of an estimated 37,500 civilians, displacement of an estimated 2.5 million people, and more than 10 million people in need of humanitarian help, according to the international medical humanitarian agency, Médecins Sans Frontières.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reported that the 11-year-old conflict has displaced over 1.4 million children and left “at least one million still trapped in hard-to-reach areas.”

In the January 12 report titled, “Chad: COOPI's activities for children continue,” the leadership of the Milan-based organization says it has facilitated the realization of  five "Friends of Childhood" spaces, and eight multipurpose centers for children in the crisis stricken Lake-Chad basin region.

“These spaces are very important, as they make it possible to carry out various play activities for the youngest children and at the same time allow us to organize moments of socialization and confrontation between the communities living in the area, in order to discuss problems and find possible solutions,” COOPI officials say in their report.

They add, “The migration of entire communities – due to drought and guerrilla actions at the hands of Boko Haram terrorists – creates coexistence that is not always easy. Therefore, we work to ensure that host and guest communities talk to each other and interact with each other, to get to know, understand and help each other.”

COOPI officials have also facilitated the registration of at least 1,400 birth certificates, as well as the sensitization of an estimated 2,000 on the rights of children, they add in the report January 12 report.

According to COOPI’s project leader, Flavio Boffi, the birth registration exercise is ongoing in 14 intervention sites and in the coming weeks, they “will be signed and distributed, thus dealing a blow to the statelessness that plagues the area".

"In order to make the population more aware of child protection issues, we launched a radio campaign accompanied by a number of on-site campaigns on the International Day of the Girl Child and the International Day of the Rights of the Child, on 11 October and 20 November respectively,” Mr. Boffi has been quoted as saying in the January 12 report.

The campaigns undertaken in partnership with the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) “saw the participation of almost 2,000 people in total and several local and national authorities,” the COOPI official adds.

The entity’s leadership is also engaged in the identification of children who need protection such as those “who, as a result of terrorist actions, have been separated from their biological parents and uprooted from their homeland.”

“The children, once identified, benefit from psychological support sessions aimed at highlighting and resolving any traumas; at the same time, while waiting for the project staff to identify their biological parents and reunite them with their families, the beneficiaries are taken in by local families,” officials of the 55-year-old NGO note in their report.

Founded in 1965 by the “megaphone of charity” Italian Jesuit Fr. Vincenzo Barbieri (1930 – 2010), COOPI strives to break the cycle of poverty and support populations affected by wars, socio-economic crisis or disasters in order to encourage resilience and sustainable development.

In its vision statement, “COOPI aspires to a world without poverty, a world in which the ideals of equality and justice, sustainable development and social cohesion can be achieved, thanks to the coming together and cooperation of its peoples.”


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Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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