UNICEF to set up 30 "Child Friendly Spaces" to address children's psychological wounds in the Sichuan earthquake zone
Beijing, July 24, 2008 – UNICEF will work with the Government of China to set up 30 centers for the long-term psychological recovery of children and families affected by the May 12 earthquake. Intensive training and basic facilities are being provided to local partners and social workers to empower the communities to recover.
By the end of August 2008, a number of Child Friendly Spaces are expected to be operating in the worst affected areas in Sichuan province including Beichuan, Anxian, Pingwu, Qingchuan, Mianzhu and Jiangyou.
"UNICEF is committed to offer support as long as it is needed." Ms Kirsten Di Martino, UNICEF's Chief of Child Rights in China said. "Children are very resilient and most of them can recover through psychosocial support. But for some people, their reaction to the traumatized experience may take time to show up and need more time to recover."
Many children in the worst-affected areas are still struggling to get over their traumatized experience alone, UNICEF's field assessment has found.
"My granddaughter looks quite fine but I know she is under great pressure. She cried secretly under the quilt at night," said Guo Yixiu from Beichuan County, one of the worst-hit areas in Sichuan province. Her granddaughter is one of the survivors of collapsed schools.
"We now aren't willing to tell our things to other people. It's useless. They can't help us but just make us feel even worst after telling our stories," Said Yang Yan, a mother who lost her elder daughter in the collapsed Beichuan Middle School. About 1200 teachers and students were killed by the earthquake in this school.
"We are now very concerned about vulnerable groups like separated or unaccompanied children, parents who lost their children, the injured, the disabled and the elderly." Ms Kirsten Di Martino said.
Till now UNICEF has provided basic facilities like tents, prefabricated rooms, toys, books, sanitation, etc, to local partners to set up Child Friendly Spaces inside relocation communities. UNICEF also offers training not only to the locally hired staff but also for community volunteers who will address the needs of children in the long run.
Children can attend group activities like playing games, singing, dancing, painting, etc. It will help them to bond with each other, to feel that they are safe and not alone. Those activities can also help the trained workers to identify those children showing initial signs of more serious trauma and provide specific support.
About UNICEF in China
UNICEF first assisted China between 1947 and 1951, providing emergency services, food and nutrition, health and hygiene training during and after the Revolutionary War. In 1979 UNICEF officially commenced its cooperation with the Government of China to support child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.
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