Responding to children’s mental health in conflict

(According to a report by Save the Children 2019)

Conflict can have a devastating impact on sources of support and stability for children.

It is estimated that approximately 24 million children living in conflict today could be experiencing high levels of stress and have mild to moderate mental health disorders needing an appropriate level of support. An additional 7 million children are at risk
of developing severe mental health disorders.(World Health Organization )

Children in conflict zones are at a great risk of suffering from mental disorders due to airstrike, siege and grave violation which in turn cause serious negative consequences on children’s mental health and well-being.

“When ISIS took over our town, the fighting got worse. I always felt tired and stressed. I feel so much older than I am because of the war. I feel like an old woman even though I am 16.” Safaa, 16, Syria.

Fear, anxiety, traumatic events and separation from caregivers can prolong children’s exposure to severe or toxic stress – in turn affecting brain development, behavior and their overall sense of well-being.

“Children are afraid. They need security. They need psychological well-being. And the most important thing for the children is education.” Mariam, 16, Iraq

When it comes to tackling crisis:

  • First, states and parties to conflict are failing to uphold and enforce international rules and standards designed to protect children.
  • Second, perpetrators of grave violations against children are not being held to account. Failure to enforce international rules, norms and laws designed to protect children affected by war is at the heart of the mental health crisis affecting children in conflict.
  • Third, the sheer scale of the mental health epidemic demands a more effective response in diagnosing and treating psycho-social issues and in supporting children in their recovery.

“I love coming to the child-friendly space so much. It makes me feel less scared and alone… It makes me feel like I have a future and I have friends.” Sara, 14, Syria.

As the international community is unable to prevent harm to children taking place, then children must be supported to recover, and this includes increasing the funding available for critical interventions addressing the different levels of need children may have.

“We’re living in an empty rented house that only has walls and a roof. Nothing else. The days are sad and dark. Memories of war still haunt our days and nights. The education
I get from the Save the Children’s child‑friendly space is a ray of hope.” Brishna, 11, Afghanistan.

Children are incredibly resilient and are able to recover from psycho-social distress. However, this often depends on the stability of their daily lives and the support that they receive from caregivers, other adults, educators, their peers and the wider community.


Source:Report by Save the Children.


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