MORE THAN 24 MILLION CHILDREN AFFECTED BY CONFLICT NEED MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT

Millions of children living in war zones or forced to flee as refugees will require support to address mental health concerns, according to a new briefing paper released by Save the Children today, ahead of critical meetings at next week’s United Nations General Assembly. 

Photo UNICEF Ukraine.

7.1 million children at serious risk of developing severe mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or PTSD

Stories from the Field

Originally published on Save the Children Australia

11 September 2019 – Millions of children living in war zones or forced to flee as refugees will require support to address mental health concerns, according to a new briefing paper released by Save the Children today, ahead of critical meetings at next week’s United Nations General Assembly. 

Road to recovery: responding to children’s mental health in conflict’ reveals that of the 142 million children living in conflict zones, more than seven million are at serious risk of developing severe mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression or anxiety, and severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

At least 24 million children – four times the child population of Australia – require some form of mental health support, either now or in the future.

“We know that mental health is a really big issue facing many Australians. But imagine being a child who’s seen family members killed in front of their eyes or fled to a refugee camp with no idea what the future holds or who is living in a war zone where it’s too dangerous to go to school because of the risk of shelling,” Save the Children’s Humanitarian Director Archie Law said.

“Tens of millions of children are in this position, having had their lives turned upside down because of war and conflict. They are suffering a range of mental health problems, yet rarely are the services needed to treat and support these children available because it simply isn’t being adequately funded.”

Save the Children’s analysis found that just 0.14 percent of all official development assistance between 2015-2017 went to programs related to child mental health support. 

At the same time the number of children living in conflict zones has increased by 37 percent since 2010, while the number of verified grave violations against them – including killing and maiming, recruitment into armed forces and sexual violence – has increased by 174 percent.

“The scale of the mental health crisis for children in conflict is enormous, yet we don’t have the funding to match the need,” said Mr Law, who has a long history working in conflict and post-conflict settings including Iraq, Cambodia and several parts of Africa.

“That’s why we’re calling on countries meeting at the UN General Assembly this coming week, including Australia, to commit to increase funding to help the recovery of children affected by conflict.”

Specifically, Save the Children is urging donors like Australia to support the replenishment of the US$1.8bn Education Cannot Wait fund – providing nine million conflict affected children with the opportunity to learn and recover – and commit dedicated funding to integrate mental health and psychosocial support services within education in humanitarian settings.

Among those children requiring mental health support is 12-year-old Fatima*, who was in her home in Hajjah, Yemen, when an airstrike killed both of her parents and five siblings. Fatima’s leg was badly injured, and she needed operations to remove the shrapnel.

“I was unconscious and buried in the sand and rescue people were only able to help me and my sister. They took us to the hospital and that’s it. My leg was injured very badly to the extent that it was with no flesh. They (seven members of my family) were buried in the village,” Fatima said.

Fatima* now lives with her sister and aunt, Arwa*, who worries about her nieces’ mental state. Arwa* told Save the Children:

“Both girls wake up at night talking to us unconsciously. They are so sensitive. At night, they become angry and start crying.”

Through Save the Children’s global Stop the War on Children campaign, the organisation is campaigning to keep schools safe, stop the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, seek accountability for crimes against children and pursue new ways to support their recovery from the horrors of conflict. To find out more go to www.stopthewaronchildren.org.au

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For media inquiries contact Evan Schuurman on 0406 117 937 or Licardo Prince on 0401 777 917.

*Name changed to protect identity.

Notes to Editor: 

In 2019, the World Health Organization estimated that 17% of adults living in conflict zones have mild to moderate mental health disorders, which would require non-specialised mental health support. Assuming that similar rates apply to children and adolescents, it is estimated that approximately 24 million children living in conflict today have mild to moderate mental health disorders needing an appropriate level of support. Of these, 5% (7.1 million) were estimated to be at risk of developing severe mental health disorders.

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT AND MHPSS COLLABORATIVE PARTNER TO DELIVER MENTAL HEALTH AND PSYCHOSOCIAL SUPPORT TO CHILDREN CAUGHT UP IN THE WORLD’S WORST HUMANITARIAN CRISES

Education Cannot Wait, together with the MHPSS Collaborative and its partners, are calling on donors to support our efforts to increase the provision and quality of MHPSS via education in emergencies with $10 million in dedicated financing to be channeled through Education Cannot Wait. UN Photo/Martine Perret
Education Cannot Wait, together with the MHPSS Collaborative and its partners, are calling on donors to support our efforts to increase the provision and quality of MHPSS via education in emergencies with US$50 million in dedicated financing to be channeled through Education Cannot Wait over three years through 2021. UN Photo/Martine Perret

NEW PARTNERSHIP WILL SEE MORE AND BETTER SERVICES FOR THE MENTAL HEALTH AND PSYCHOSOCIAL WELL-BEING OF CHILDREN AFFECTED BY CONFLICT DELIVERED THROUGH EDUCATION

16 May 2019, The Hague – Today, at the Stop the War on Children Symposium in The Hague, Netherlands, Education Cannot Wait and the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Collaborative launched a new partnership designed to mainstream mental health and psychosocial support for children and youth affected by wars and conflicts.

One in five of the world’s school-aged children live in countries affected by conflict. These girls and boys face increased risk of developing mental health and psychosocial problems due to the violence, trauma, fear and chronic adversity they experience. This combination may lead to “toxic stress” – a type of stress particularly damaging to a developing child’s brain architecture with potential lifelong impacts on children’s physical and mental health; their ability to grow, learn, develop; and their capacity to build the skills they need to become productive members of society.

Yet, in most conflict areas, there are few if any mental health and psychosocial support services specifically for children and adolescents, including a serious lack of capacity to care for children with higher level needs, such as developmental disability, exposure to traumatic events, or mental, neurologic and substance abuse disorders.

Dr. Leslie Snider and Yasmine Sherif at the Stop the War on Children Symposium. Photo Michael Corlin/ECW.
Dr. Leslie Snider and Yasmine Sherif at the Stop the War on Children Symposium. Photo Michael Corlin/ECW.

“Integrating MHPSS programming into the existing services that support and protect children, such as educational systems, is one way in which the service gap can be closed and by which we can ensure children can access opportunities for healing, recovery and learning,” said Dr. Leslie Snider, the Director of the MHPSS Collaborative.

With Education Cannot Wait expanding its investments in multi-year resilience education programmes to 25 priority crisis-affected countries in the next three years, the new partnership with the MHPSS Collaborative – a global platform for research, practice, learning and advocacy

for mental health and psychosocial support – has the potential to reach 9 million children annually by 2021.

“Education Cannot Wait is a global fund designed to ensure children caught up in crises have access to education and we’re committed to ensuring that the education they receive support them in healing,’ said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Our support to education takes a holistic approach to ensure children’s wellbeing. We can’t ask a child who is suffering from the horrors of war and the prolonged stress and insecurity of daily life in conflict zones to learn numeracy and literacy skills as if it was business as usual. Only by helping them cope with their experiences, heal and recover can we help them achieve quality learning outcomes.”

Integrating mental health and psychosocial support within education not only ensures safe and nurturing learning environments, it has also been demonstrated to improve academic outcomes for children.

Education Cannot Wait, together with the MHPSS Collaborative and its partners, are calling on donors to support our efforts to increase the provision and quality of MHPSS via education in emergencies with US$50 million in dedicated financing to be channeled through Education Cannot Wait over three years through 2021. This funding will enable the development and demonstration of a Minimum Service Package for mental health and psychosocial services within the education sector. Furthermore, it will support the implementation of the package in five Education Cannot Wait Multi-Year Resilience Programme countries by 2021, providing critical support to build back better educational systems linked with other care and protective services.

Stop the War Symposium Panel. Photo: The MPHSS Collaborative
Stop the War Symposium Panel. Photo: The MPHSS Collaborative

The new partnership will help build capacity across the education sector to deliver lifesaving mental health and psychosocial support and effectively link educational systems with health, protection and social services, ensuring a critical safety net for children and their caregivers.

The MHPSS Collaborative will support the mainstreaming of such services through Education Cannot Wait’s investments, in coordination with the Global Education Cluster and other relevant coordination mechanisms.

The Minimum Service Packages for MHPSS within education, health and protection sectors in humanitarian response is an initiative of UNICEF and WHO.

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Note to Editors:

For more information, read the full briefing Healing And Recovery Through Education In Emergencies

About Education Cannot Wait (ECW)

ECW is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies. It was launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings. ECW’s investment modalities are designed to usher in a more collaborative approach among actors on the ground, ensuring relief and development organizations join forces to achieve education outcomes. Education Cannot Wait is hosted by UNICEF. The Fund is administered under UNICEF’s financial, human resources and administrative rules and regulations, while operations are run by the Fund’s own independent governance structure.

Additional information on ECW is available at www.educationcannotwait.org

For press enquiries, contact:
Anouk Desgroseilliers, adesgroseilliers@educationcannotwait.org , +1 917 640-6820

For any other enquiries, contact:
info@educationcannotwait.org

About the MHPSS Collaborative

The MHPSS Collaborative is a global platform for mental health and psychosocial support research, practice, learning and advocacy. We connect key academic and humanitarian actors with local civil society to give children and families in fragile circumstances the possibility to thrive, to learn and play, and to develop to their full potential. Based upon meaningful relationships and local realities and solutions, the collaborative: Convenes local to global stakeholders for MHPSS sharing, exchange, learning and innovation; Facilitates interagency MHPSS implementation science to promote innovation, quality and scale; Engages local communities of practice to lift learning from local MHPSS innovation to global exchange; Disseminates MHPSS knowledge, evidence and resources; and Champions the critical contribution of MHPSS to the recovery and survival of children and families in fragile contexts through evidence-based advocacy and policy.

For more information, contact: les@redbarnet.dk or cvt@redbarnet.dk or follow @MHPSSCollabora1 on Twitter