Overview of content:
Dear friends and colleagues,
Around the world, millions of children and families have had to flee their homes from conflict, persecution, disaster and extreme poverty. According to UNHCR, over half of the world’s refugees are children, or minors below the age of 18, and UNICEF states that 31 million children worldwide were displaced by the end of 2018. Moreover, refugee children are 5 times more likely not to have access to school than other children, and many lack access to essential health care. Children in refugee camps often live in dire conditions, lacking basic needs such as hygiene, sanitation, safety, food and clean drinking water. Many may have witnessed, or experienced, severe violence and they may be at risk of neglect, abuse, exploitation, trafficking or military recruitment. Some children do not have adults they can trust alongside themselves and they flee and seek protection elsewhere as unaccompanied minors.
Many children and their families live with a range of different reactions that may be consequences of traumatic experiences. Such reactions or symptoms can be nightmares, feeling anxious or depressed, feeling agitated and restless, physical pain, an inability to focus and concentrate, or losing hope for the future, among others. The lack of stability and routine in daily life that many refugee and migrant children face make it even more difficult to cope and recover from trauma. Often there is no psycho social support available to them due to the situation that these children and their families find themselves in.
Despite all these challenges, children are resilient. Not all children exposed to potentially traumatic events will develop serious mental health conditions. Knowing about protective factors that can help children recover and cope is important. Being able to mobilize such factors represents a hopeful approach, that may open for practical and adequate support.
We can divide protective factors into two groups: 1) those related to characteristics of the child and 2) those related to characteristics of the environment. Children can draw strength from protective factors within themselves as well as from their families and the community within which they live. Important protective factors that caregivers and helpers can influence include:
Children need stability, security and the possibility to learn, play and explore their skills for their cognitive, emotional and social development. Children need to be loved and cared for.
In Health and Human Rights Info (HHRI) we are currently working on responding to the need for more specific information on children exposed to sexual violence in contexts of instability and how we can provide psychosocial support to these children and their caregivers. The new project has been developed together with experts in the field of child psychology, trauma and humanitarian work. Clinical psychologist and expert in the field of resilience in children, Helen Christie, was initiative-taker to the project and is leading it together with HHRI’s Executive Director, Elisabeth Ng Langdal. Further update on this project will be provided.
Below we have gathered publications and information in English about refugee children focusing on the following:
We have also included information from UNHCR and UNICEF on their work with refugee children, as well as a positive story from Madrid, Spain, where volunteers record bedtime stories that are sent to Spanish speaking refugee children, by UNHCR.
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
United Nations 1989
First, we believe it is highly valuable to remind ourselves of articles 9, 22, 24, 28 and 39 in the Convention on the Rights of the Child which state the following:
Article 9 The right not to be separated from the parents
Article 22 The right to seek asylum and to receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance as a refugee
Article 24 The right of access to health care
Article 28 The right to education
Article 39 The right to physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of child victims of any form of neglect, exploitation or abuse: torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflict, which should take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.
Image from Pixabay
As COVID-19 pandemic continues, forcibly displaced children need more support than ever
UNHCR 20 April 2020
Joint statement by Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, and Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“Millions of children around the world have been driven from their homes and across borders by conflict, violence and other forms of harm – including 12.7 million refugees and 1.1 million asylum seekers. With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs of refugee children have become even more acute. Meeting those needs is key to safeguarding both their wellbeing today and future potential. Displaced children are among those with the most limited access to prevention services, testing, treatment and other essential support. In addition, the pandemic and containment measures are likely to have negative consequences for their safety and education, which were precarious even before the outbreak of the disease.”
The Resilience Guide: Strategies for Responding to Trauma in Refugee Children
Supporting Child Care in the Settlement Community, CMAS
2018, author Heather Savazzi
“This practical guide is developed for practitioners and professionals working directly with families and children who have experienced forced migration. The guide focuses on the Canadian context, but much of the theory, principles and methods can be applied in work with children with a refugee experience in other countries and contexts. The guide includes information about refugee trauma, potential developmental effects, and key strategies that foster the resilience of children and families. The guide also includes tip sheets filled with practical strategies that are designed to be taken straight off the page and put into practice.”
MANUAL for promoting mental health of affected children: With accent on refugees’/migrants’ children
UNICEF 2017, author Chamber of Psychologists by Marijana Markovikj and Eleonora Serafimovska
“This manual is aimed at promoting the mental health of children under risk and providing psychosocial care in facilities accommodating persons under risk. It was developed from the project entitled: “Capacity building for providing psychological interventions and resilience of professional staff in Transit Centres to refugees and migrant children.” The project was funded and supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (“UNICEF”) and implemented by the Chamber of Psychologists of the Republic of Macedonia. The main objective of the project was: “to equip front line workers, including psychologists and social workers working in Transit Centres, with tools and skills how to provide targeted psychological interventions through group and/or individual work”. This manual is intended to serve as a guide for psychologists and/or psychotherapists engaged as helpers who (will) work with affected people1 in relief assistance facilities. The manual can also be useful for social workers, teachers and health workers.”
Improving children’s wellbeing: An evaluation of NRC’s Better Learning Programme in Palestine
Norwegian Refugee Council, NRC January 2017
“The Better Learning Programme (BLP) aims to improve learning conditions for children and adolescents exposed to war and conflict in Palestine. The Better Learning Programme consists of two components: BLP 1 reaches out to all pupils and provides psycho-education and coping skills, while BLP 2 is a specialised intervention for those with chronic symptoms of traumatic stress. Both components combine a psychosocial and trauma-focused approach. The psychosocial support offered in both components aims: (1) to establish a sense of stability and safety; (2) to promote calming and a capacity for self-regulation; (3) to increase community and self-efficacy, including where to find support and how to give and receive support; and (4) to promote mastery and hope.”
In addition to the evaluation report, an interview with Professor Jon-Håkon Schultz who led the development of NRC’s work for children with trauma can be read here.
Download the manual Mental health and gender-based violence: Helping survivors of sexual violence in conflict from our website for free. The manual is available in English, Arabic, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese. This training material has been written for those who provide assistance and support to women who survive gender-based violence and sexual trauma during disasters, wars and conflicts. Furthermore, we hope it may be helpful as well to those who work with gender-based violence survivors in other settings. Please share the manual and spread it among your colleagues, organizations or in your community.
Dubrovnik summer school
In the shadow of PTSD:
The heterogeneity of responses to psychological trauma in individuals, families and communities across cultures
25th- 28th May 2020
in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Summer school Ghent
Health & Migration’ and ‘Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights’
For medical students
5th until the 16th of July 2020
IRCT symposium in Georgia 2021
2021 IRCT Scientific Symposium & General Assembly
Overcoming the Extreme: Life after Torture
5-7 October 2020 in Tbilisi, Georgia
17th biennial conference of the European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
Trauma and resilience through the ages: A life course perspective.
16-19 June 2021
The 11th International Society for Health and Human Rights (ISHHR) Conference
The ISHHR Conference will take place in Medellín, Colombia, late 2021. More information will follow.
The ISHHR Conference and Capacity-Building Workshops will focus on themes relevant in a Colombian context, for both local and international participants, in cooperation with Región and Reconectando.
The Call for Papers, to be published in autumn 2020, is based on four principle thematic streams for papers, parallel sessions and workshops:
We appreciate feedback and comments
The Health and Human Rights Info Newsletter is a newsletter with the aim to provide insight on a certain subject across the scope of our work; human rights violations in disaster, war and conflict areas and mental health. Our intention is to deliver a newsletter as a short “lecture” where you can find relevant information regarding a specific subject with a mental health perspective. We would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions on other issues you would like to see in this newsletter or if you are planning an event on related issues, please let us know so we can include your event in our newsletter.If you know anyone who would be interested in receiving this e-newsletter, please forward it, and encourage them to sign up.
Stay well – and wishing you all the best.