Following the return of families to Marawi City, aid agency World Vision underscores the importance of continuous psychosocial support for children affected by the crisis.
“Healing does not come in a snap especially for the children who have witnessed the fighting in Marawi. A number of them have had psychosocial support while they were still in the evacuation centers but the need is still huge especially as they reintegrate themselves in the city,” said Rommel Fuerte, World Vision’s national director in the Philippines.
The child protection working group, to date, has collectively reached at least 7,662 children through 54 child-friendly spaces (CFS). While much has been accomplished, data shows that more work needs to be done and more children have to be reached. School principal Noraida Arobinto shared that many of the students are still sensitive to sounds associated with bombs and gun shots.
“Children are still showing signs of trauma. Every time they hear sounds that remind them of the fighting, we have to continuously reassure them that it is over,” shared Arobinto.
After providing psychosocial support to more than 1,400 displaced children in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, World Vision and local partners Ecosystems Work for Essential Benefit (Ecoweb), Mindanaw Tripartite Youth Core (MTYC), Tapukan Farmers MPC (TFMPC), Lanao Youth Council (LYC), and Ranaw Watch for Empowerment Network (RAWATEN), Inc. have set up child-friendly spaces in five villages in Marawi now deemed safe by the government. CFS is a safe place for children to help them come into terms with their experience from a disaster or crisis. Children are able to play, meet with fellow children and express themselves through different activities. The spaces are also crucial to address their psychosocial needs while most schools are still not open.
“I’m happy to be back in Marawi but sometimes, I still feel afraid. I look forward to attending the CFS because I get to meet my friends and we always play. I also received school materials which make me more excited to go back to school,” said 8-year old Abulkhair.
Aside from psychological wounds, children are also likely to get distressed because of poor living conditions.
“There are days when children would come to me and ask if there are relief goods given to the school. It’s always heartbreaking when I hear them ask that question,” added Arobinto. Most families who are now back in Marawi City rely on aid to sustain their needs. The already existing emotional stress exacerbated by poverty could impair a child’s mental, emotional and physical development if not immediately addressed.
To help respond to the said concern, World Vision launched its cash-for-work initiative in its assisted villages. The program aims to provide opportunity for families to earn daily income from rendering labour that would benefit their community. In close coordination with the government and other humanitarian organizations, World Vision also continues to look into the livelihood needs and sustainable income for the people.
“All of these initiatives are for the well-being of the children. No child deserves to go through distress because of armed conflicts. We urge all donors and partners to help us as we scale up our humanitarian intervention for families who are now back in Marawi City,” added Fuerte.
The Marawi crisis, which started on May 23, 2017, has displaced over 380,000 people, including an estimated 160,000 children.
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