Education Cannot Wait Enhances Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for Crisis-affected Children and Youth in the Middle East and North Africa

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New $250,000 ECW Acceleration Facility grant will enhance Norwegian Refugee Council’s Better Learning Programme

New York

Approximately 100 million children are out of school in the Middle East and North Africa as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflicts and protracted crises. To provide these girls and boys with the mental health and psychosocial support they need to deal with the trauma and stress of these multiplying crises, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today US$250,000 in new funding to support the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Better Learning Programme in the Middle East.

The nine-month ECW Acceleration Facility grant will provide school-based mental health and psychosocial support, strengthen regional capacity to integrate the Better Learning Programme into education programming, advocate for enhanced mental health services for children, and ensure the Better Learning Programme is available as a public good that can be taken to scale and replicated across education in emergency projects.

“Many girls and boys in the Middle East have lived through unspeakable traumas. They have hidden in basements during bombings, been forced to flee their homes, or lost loved ones. For these children and youth, education represents a safe place to learn, grow and thrive,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations’ global fund for education in emergencies. “With this new grant, we are accelerating our work to provide whole-of-child solutions that include access to education, access to remote learning tools during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and access to the mental health and psychosocial support these children need to recover from these terrifying traumas and grow up to be productive members of society.”

The Norwegian Refugee Council’s Better Learning Programme focuses on improving learning capacity by integrating techniques for coping with stress and adversity into daily teaching and learning. This encourages a natural recovery for children and youth who are struggling to recover from the impacts of violence, displacement and the disruptions to regular school routines caused by the COVID-19 school shutdowns. Evidence-based multi-layered approaches provide targeted psychosocial support in the classroom and through small-group interventions for academic under-achievers. The programme also provides specialized services for children experiencing nightmares, a chronic symptom of severe stress.

In the region, ECW supports education in emergency responses in Iraq, Lebanon, the State of Palestine and Syria, providing children with protective learning environments along with the psychosocial and mental health support they need to cope with stress and adversity.

A recent Norwegian Refugee Council investigation indicates that the fear of COVID-19 is leading to an alarming rise in stress levels amongst refugee and displaced children in the Middle East. Without reliable access to the internet or other remote learning tools, many of these children have spent months now without access to the safety and consistency that quality learning environments provide.

“Children who were once forced to flee hunger, bombs and bullets, now face an epidemic of fear caused by the global coronavirus. With no end to the outbreak in sight, toxic stress poses a major health threat to the Middle East’s most vulnerable children. This poses a significant threat to the future prospects for this generation of learners, who will enter adulthood without the necessary cognitive and social-emotional skills to meaningfully participate in society, perpetuating cycles of violence, displacement, poverty and hunger,” said Camilla Lodi, Regional Psychosocial Support Advisor at the Norwegian Refugee Council.

About NRC

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is an independent humanitarian organisation helping people forced to flee.

We work in crises across 31 countries, providing emergency
and long-term assistance to millions of people every year. We stand up for people forced to flee, advocating their rights. NORCAP, our expert deployment capacity, supports the UN and other authorities in crises. NRC also runs the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in Geneva, a global leader in reporting on and advocating for people displaced within their own country.

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