from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – MORE than 300 000 children have been killed during the insurgency perpetrated by Islamist groups northeast of Nigeria.
Over million have been displaced since the violent campaign that began in 2009 to establish an Islamic state in the region.
A Mental Health and Psycho-social Support (MHPSS) needs assessment of conflict-affected children in the area has revealed pervasive psycho-social distress manifesting as high levels of anxiety, suspiciousness, anger, aggressiveness and hyper-vigilance among children.
As children continue to bear the brunt of the 12-year conflict, the European Union (EU) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are working together to provide community-based psycho-social services aimed at improving children’s mental health.
Through the EU-funded Support to Early Recovery and Resilience Project, implemented by UNICEF, at least 5 129 conflict-affected out-of-school children in Borno State are receiving services including mental health support.
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.
Some 1 610 out-of-school children have acquired with literacy and numeracy skills and 5 194 children enrolled into integrated Qur’anic schools.
“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,” the envoy lamented.
He called for an immediate stop to attacks against children.
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 psycho-social issues.
“Addressing the psycho-social 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,” said Cecile Tassin-Pelzer, EU Head of Cooperation.
The programme in Nigeria is a component of a three-year €10 million EU Support to Early Recovery and Resilience package to support children, youths, and communities in Borno State.
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.
– CAJ News