Boletín en español

NEWSLETTER NO. 2  / May 2020
Refugee and Migrant Children:
Children’s Rights, Mental Health, Resilience and Protection  

Overview of content:

  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
  • As COVID-19 pandemic continues, forcibly displaced children need more support than ever
  • The Resilience Guide: Strategies for Responding to Trauma in Refugee Children
  • MANUAL for promoting mental health of affected children: With accent on refugees’/migrants’ children
  • Improving children’s well being: An evaluation of NRC’s Better Learning Programme in Palestine
  • Health of refugee and migrant children: Technical guidance
  • Action for refugee children: Good practices that bring the Global Refugee Compact to life
  • UNICEF calls for six actions to protect all refugee and migrant children
  • Brain Builders: How a child’s brain develops through early experiences (YouTube video)
  • Storytellers brighten lives of refugee children on corona virus lockdown
  • Download the HHRI GBV manual
  • Upcoming Events

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:

  • Help the child to feel like a worthy person
  • Allow the child to express itself creatively and through play
  • Allow the child to learn new things and explore his or her skills, thereby providing the child with a sense of mastery
  • Provide the child with an experience of having an influence in their own lives
  • Provide the child with a feeling of meaning and a sense of coherence in his or her daily life
  • Make sure that there are some routines, structure and boundaries in the daily life of the child
  • Make sure that there is at least one adult person that the child can trust and feel that she or he really cares about the child
  • Respect the child and his or her physical and psychological integrity

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:

  • The rights of the child as these are laid out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;
  • The urgent need to protect refugee children during the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • The importance of a strong awareness on refugee children’s mental health and well-being including interventions and strategies to provide psychosocial support and promoting resilience.

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.

Further reading

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.

“They’re often in the same class or year. When they’re also in the same group,
it’s easier to ask ‘How are you doin
g?Have you had a nightmare?
Do you do the exercises?’”

(Professor Jon-Håkon Schultz)
Image from Pixabay
Health of refugee and migrant children: Technical guidance  
WHO Regional Office for Europe 
“The objective of this technical guidance is to inform national and local health policy regarding health care for newly arrived refugee and migrant children. This grouping encompasses children aged 0–18 years who are asylum seekers, in an irregular situation or in the first two years after obtaining residency in the country of reception. The guidance, therefore, focuses on the initial health care response to the needs of these children.
The guidance includes information on mental health and psychological well-being and describes different areas for intervention and as well as policy considerations focusing on health promotion strategies and public health strategies.”
Action for refugee children: Good practices that bring the Global Refugee Compact to life
UNICEF December 2019
“Every refugee crisis is a children’s crisis. More than half of the 25.9 million refugees worldwide are under the age of 18. Refugee boys and girls are uniquely vulnerable: because they are children, because they are uprooted, because they have experienced or witnessed violence. These vulnerabilities put them at risk of more violence, abuse, exploitation and discrimination. However, refugee children should not only be defined by their vulnerabilities. They are strong and resilient. They are determined to thrive, and their potential is limitless. They are not alone. In the Global Compact on Refugees, governments and stakeholders around the world have committed to make sure no refugee girl or boy is left behind.
The brochure includes information on education and learning, the importance of early childhood development, and protection of refugee children from violence, exploitation and abuse, among others.”
UNICEF calls for six actions to protect all refugee and migrant children
As part of the UNICEF ‘s Agenda for Action and the Children uprooted campaign, UNICEF calls for six actions to protect all refugee and migrant children. These six action points are:
1. Press for action on the causes that uproot children from their homes
2. Help uprooted children to stay in school and stay healthy
3. Keep families together and give children legal status
4. End the detention of refugee and migrant children by creating practical alternatives
5. Combat xenophobia and discrimination
6. Protect uprooted children from exploitation and violence
 “This ‘Brain Builders’ video explains how experiences in the first years of our lives affect how our brains form. Science tells us that the stress of abuse or neglect can damage the basic structures of a child’s developing brain. Without the right help, it can put them at risk of a lifetime of health problems, developmental issues and addiction. It’s up to us to make sure that children overcome these stresses and have the nurturing experiences they need for positive development.”
Storytellers brighten lives of refugee children on corona virus lock down
UNHCR 23 April 2020
“Volunteers in Spain are recording bedtime stories to share with children in reception centres via WhatsApp in a UNHCR-backed project. Life in lockdown for COVID-19 is tough, but for Rosalina, an asylum-seeker from Venezuela, it is particularly hard. She and her three children – 8, 12 and 14 years old – share a single room at a reception centre in Madrid. She finds it difficult to keep them occupied and entertained.”
“These stories are like invisible friends for my children” (Rosalina)

Image by Mystic Art design from Pixabay

Download the HHRI GBV manual

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 EnglishArabic, 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.

Facebook and Twitter
On our HHRI Facebook page and Twitter account, we are continuously posting new and relevant articles that we add to our web site, as well as events and videos.

Upcoming Events

Due to the COVID-19 situation, many of these events will be postponed. Check out each specific event for further information.

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
Ghent, Belgium

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
Northern Ireland.

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:

  • Strengthening Women’s Rights to Mental Health and Freedom from Violence – by changing behaviour, practices and attitudes and facilitating safe and adequate care.
  • Supporting Human Rights Defenders who risk their lives in difficult and dangerous situations, side by side with families of victims of enforced disappearance and internally displaced (IDPs).
  • Treatment methods after traumatic human rights abuse. Remembering the body, promoting resilience; arts and culture, traditional and indigenous approaches.
  • Post-conflict reconciliation, reconstruction and re-socialisation Community mental health, justice human ecology, ethnic approaches to social action, empowerment and reconciliation.

To receive updates, become an ISHHR member or contact coordinator@ishhr.com for more information.

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.

Sincerely yours
The HHRI team
Health and Human Rights Info


View the original newsletter here.

NEWSLETTER NO.5  Desember / 2019

Overview of content:
Human rights defenders and torture
Video tutorials
New video tutorial with Nora Sveaass
Download the HHRI GBV manual
The woman butterfly animation
Upcoming Events 

Human rights defenders and torture

The woman butterfly animation

View the original newsletter here.
HHRI provides information about mental health and human rights violations             Boletín en Español

View the original newsletter here.
Boletín en Español 

See the original newsletter here.Health and Human Rights Info (HHRI) Newsletter April 2019
HHRI provides information about mental health and human rights violations         Spanish Boletín

Overview of content 
Transitional justice and mental health
Further reading on transitional justice
Download the HHRI GBV manual
Upcoming Events

Photo: Marino Cordoba Colombia’s human rights defender during his visit to Oslo.

Dear friends and colleagues
Transitional justice and mental health

“We want to know the truth. Who ordered the killings of my family and the people in my village?” Legitimate questions from Marino Cordoba, a Human rights defender and a social leader from Riosucio in Colombia. These were some of the expectations that the truth commission was met with, when set to work in Colombia in December 2018.

The question is of course – will the people of Colombia be provided with the full truth through the work of the truth commission? Few of us are in doubt as to the importance of transitional processes in situations following a conflict, when peace agreements are signed, and the reconstruction of society is needed. As part of such processes, truth commissions, investigations and legal procedures, as well as different forms of reparations, are vital. In this context, forgiveness, in addition to reconciliation, is often described as important parts of this.

But what does it take for those who have lost and suffered, to forgive, or to reconcile with persons formerly seen as enemies or even oppressors? What role does the truth commission play in this? It is evident that people have the right to know, but it is not always so clear that truth alone provides the sense of restoration that the victims and survivors are looking for and that the peace process requires when a conflict is over.

Examples from different countries that have carried out truth commissions, indicates that the process may be of value, but often not enough to restore the balance and sense of justice.  The experiences with truth commissions in South Africa, Uganda, Guatemala, Rwanda and Kenya are evidence of important steps, but more is usually needed. According to Pathak (2017) transitional justice constitutes a five-pillar approach: truth, justice, healing, prosecution and reparation, as ways of confronting and dealing with the authoritarian or violent past.  So, one can say that without all the five pillars, and probably, without the clear presence of justice and accountability, the transition of a community from conflict to peace will face difficulties.

As a means of supporting victims and as a way for them to move forward, the role of the truth commissions and their effects have been much debated. Pathak also underlines that the budget often allocated to the commissions and the amount defined for reparations to the victims, are usually very inadequate, and the lack of official policies and inadequate legislation and regulations to govern these processes, are factors that can jeopardies these important and needed processes.

Hayes in Hamber (2007) claims that “Revealing is not simply healing; the process of healing depends on how we reveal, the context of the revealing, and what it is that we are revealing”. The truth may be a collection of past events, consisting of different interpretations and recollection of what happened. It is vital that victims, the survivors and those participating in the transitional processes consider these as fair and just, and that those involved are met with respect and in a dignified manner in order for them not to be revictimized in the process. These are some of the important issues that must be taken into consideration when working with victims engaging in truth commissions.
Please have a look at the links below and at our thematic page on transitional justice for more information related to the topic.

Further reading on transitional justice

Charles Mulinda Kabwete 2018
This theoretical discussion around the concepts of truth, confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation after conflict has showed to what extent these concepts are interconnected. We saw that those who seek truth have to pass through a negotiation process or something that looks like a negotiation. Those who narrate this truth, recall past events but also interpret and even reinterpret them. This whole exercise can be seen as an attempt to contextualise the collection of truth but also to problematise it. Truth in most cases is plural, not singular.

A Comparative Study of World’s Truth Commissions: From Madness to Hope
Pathak 2017
Truth Commissions have been established, are being established and will be established based primarily on three notions: Let’s forget the victims to forgive the perpetrators; let’s not forget the victims and forgive the perpetrators; and let’s not forget the victims and not forgive the perpetrators, too. These notions apply to both restorative and retributive justices.

To Prosecute or Not to Prosecute: The Need for Justice in Post-Conflict Sri Lanka

Nadeshda Jayakody 2017
Since the mid-1970s, social psychologists and legal scholars have surveyed people around the world who have participated in judicial proceedings involving crimes committed in domestic jurisdictions to understand what it is about such processes that lead participants to consider them fair or unfair, and ultimately to accept or reject the outcome of such proceedings. Almost universally, these procedural justice studies have found that witnesses define a “fair process” as one that is based largely on three criteria described; benevolence, the degree to which they perceive that the court officials, from judges to social workers, care about them and their experiences; neutrality, the extent to which they have been able to talk about their experiences in a neutral and unbiased forum; and respect, the extent to which they have been treated in a professional and dignified manner.

El Espectador 2018
“We hope we can contribute to Colombia seeking the truth in a sincere, transparent way, which is a public good and is the responsibility of all of us in Colombia. We hope to contribute in depth with our communication and pedagogy and with the Casas de la Verdad that we are starting to open in different regions in the form of a mobile team with the communities,” he said in an interview with the Justice for Peace chapter of Colombia 2020.

While there is growing interest in examining what long-term impact truth commissions have on society, our understanding has been hampered by a number of empirical problems. Specifically, most studies focus on a small biased subsample of cases, rely on anecdotal evidence and normative conviction, and fail to follow the truth commission’s legacy beyond its immediate reception. What is more, although a range of purposes have been put forward for truth commissions, there is little consensus on what criteria might be used to assess them.
ICTJ, Eduardo González, Elena Naughton, Félix Reátegui 2014
Sustainable peace requires more than agreements between leaders: it requires institutions that are worthy of trust, that respect human rights. In turn, these institutions require the confidence of citizens who previously only had reasons to distrust state authorities. Only then is the recurrence of violence less likely.
Robins, Simon 2017
The truth commission is claimed to be ‘victim-centred’, as a result of this process being primarily performative and focussed on victim testimony, institutionalising the truth claims of victims through public truth-telling with the social goal of reconnecting victims and society.
Brandon Hamber*, Dineo Nageng & Gabriel O’Malley 1995

From a psychological (psychoanalytic) perspective, sleeping dogs do not lie and past traumas do not simply pass or disappear with the passage of time; but testimony and telling (and hearing) the truth will not instantaneously result in healing (Hamber, 1995;1998a).  Revealing is not simply healing; the process of healing depends on how we reveal, the context of the revealing, and what it is that we are revealing (Hayes, 1998).  In the final report of the TRC, the Commission acknowledges the healing potential of storytelling, whilst noting that it initiated more than it closed when it came to individual healing (TRC, 1998).

For sale Ruthledge
This book addresses current developments in transitional justice in Latin America – effectively the first region to undergo concentrated transitional justice experiences in modern times. Using a comparative approach, it examines trajectories in truth, justice, reparations, and amnesties in countries emerging from periods of massive violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The book examines the cases of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, developing and applying a common analytical framework to provide a systematic, qualitative and comparative analysis of their transitional justice experiences. More specifically, the book investigates to what extent there has been a shift from impunity towards accountability for past human rights violations in Latin America.

Download the HHRI GBV manual

Download the manual Mental health and gender-based violence: Helping survivors of sexual violence in conflict for free. The manual is also available inArabic, Russian and Spanish. 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.


View the original newsletter here.

View the original newsletter here.

View the original newsletter here.

View the original newsletter here.






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