By; MOHAMMED KAWU, Bauchi
A number of 5,129 conflict-affected out-of-school children in six local government areas of Borno State are receiving services that include mental health support in safe spaces to strengthen their well-being, resilience, literacy skills and self-reliance.
The project coming in the wake of European Union three-year €10 million-funded Support to Early Recovery and Resilience being implemented by UNICEF is geared to provide community-based psychosocial services aimed at improving children’s mental health.
The project also supports vulnerable children across Borno with protection and health services, vocational and basic literacy skills, access to justice and security, under a holistic humanitarian intervention that has so far provided 15,552 out-of-school children with vocational training.
UNICEF, while noticing that children in the Northeast sub-region bared the brunt of the 12-year conflict, the project also provided 1,610 out-of-school children with literacy and numeracy skills and 5,194 children enrolled into integrated Qur’anic schools across focus LGAs.
“Also included in the package is the provision of vocational skills and non-formal education to at least 25,000 young people, the construction and rehabilitation of learning centers and the strengthening of education management information systems”.
The UN Agency in a statement by its communication officer, Folashade Adebayo made available to the press, said that more than 300,000 children have been killed in the north-east, while over one million have been displaced.
“A recent Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) needs assessment of conflict-affected children in north-east Nigeria revealed pervasive psychosocial distress manifesting as high levels of anxiety, suspiciousness, anger, aggressiveness, and hyper-vigilance”.
“The scars of conflict are real and enduring for children,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF’s Representative in Nigeria, stressing that too many children in the sub-region are falling victim to a conflict they did not start.
Mr. Peter Hawkins also spoke of the need for stoppage of attacks against children, saying UNICEF is committed to working with its partners to provide psychosocial and other support to conflict-affected children to enable them regain their childhood and restart their lives.
He explained that stress and violence have been linked to poor brain development, depression and poor self-esteem, and children exposed to conflict and violence are at risk of long-term mental health and psychosocial issues.
According to EU Head of Cooperation Cecile Tassin-Pelzer, addressing the psychosocial well-being and development of children and teachers in conflict situations is an important part of re-establishing education provision and enabling children to re-enter schools safely.
UNICEF uses psychosocial support to help conflict-affected children manage their emotions, solve problems, deal with crisis, and maintain healthy relationships.