As children continue to bear the brunt of the 12-year conflict in North East Nigeria, the European Union (EU) and UNICEF are working together to provide community-based psychosocial services aimed at improving children’s mental health.
This is according to a press statement jointly released by the European Union (EU), and UNICEF on Thursday, September 23.
The statement revealed that at least 5,129 conflict-affected; out-of-school children in six Local Government Areas of Borno State are receiving services including mental health support in safe spaces to strengthen their well-being, resilience, literacy skills and self-reliance.
This is via the EU-funded Support to Early Recovery and Resilience Project implemented by UNICEF.
The project also supports vulnerable children across Borno with protection and health services, vocational and basic literacy skills, and access to justice and security, under a holistic humanitarian intervention that has so far provided 15,552 out-of-school children with vocational training; 1,610 out-of-school children with literacy and numeracy skills and 5,194 children enrolled into integrated Qur’anic schools across focus LGAs.
UNICEF recently revealed that more than 300,000 children have been killed in Nigeria’s North East; while over one million have been displaced.
A recent Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) needs assessment of conflict-affected children in the region revealed pervasive psychosocial distress manifesting as high levels of anxiety, suspiciousness, anger, aggressiveness, as well as hyper-vigilance.
“The scars of conflict are real and enduring for children,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF’s Representative in Nigeria.
“Too many children in North East Nigeria are falling victim to a conflict they did not start. Attacks against children must stop immediately. In the meantime, we are committed to working with our partners to provide psychosocial; and other support to conflict-affected children; so they can regain their childhood and restart their lives.’’
Stress and violence have been linked to poor brain development; depression and poor self-esteem; and children exposed to conflict; as well as violence are at risk of long-term mental health and psychosocial issues, it added.
“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,” EU Head of Cooperation Cecile Tassin-Pelzer, noted.
UNICEF says it uses psychosocial support to help conflict-affected children manage their emotions; solve problems; deal with crises; as well as maintain healthy relationships.
The EU-funded programme in Borno State is a component of a three-year €10 million European Union Support to Early Recovery and Resilience package to support children, youths, and communities in Borno State.