|© UNICEF Lebanon/2007|
|A UNICEF-supported summer camp is helping to heal war-affected children from the village of Aita el Shaeb in Lebanon.|
By Eliane Asmar
AITA AL SHAEB, Lebanon, 30 August 2007 – Hearing the children of Aita el Shaeb sing and dance, it is difficult to believe that just one year ago this village in the south of Lebanon was suffering from the effects of conflict. The children are participating in a new UNICEF-supported summer camp programme, which is helping war-affected youths to heal through play.
The summer camps provide opportunities for 150 children in towns still rebuilding from the 2006 war. The youths, aged 6 to 10, are encouraged to express themselves through art, games and handicrafts – activities that are critical to helping youths recover from distress after emergencies. The programme is supported by UNICEF in partnership with the Imam el Sader Foundation.
Children in the summer camps learn about important issues such as personal hygiene, child rights and tolerance.
“I learned a lot here,” said Nour, 11. “I learned not to eat a lot of sweets and to replace them with fruits and vegetables. I learned healthy habits.”
'Confused and lost'
UNICEF Lebanon Health Project Officer Dr. Imran Mirza said that now is the time to teach war-affected children about health and to help them cope with stress.
Older children, ranging in age from 15 to 18, volunteer at the summer camp as facilitators, working in groups to encourage creative, interactive activities among the younger campers.
“This is the first anniversary of the war, and the children are still confused and lost,” said Nisreen, a youth leader from the Imam el Sader Foundation. “They come here to enjoy themselves.”
Play is critical for recovery
Although the youth are resilient, the scars of the war still run deep. Play is essential to help children deal with stress and gain important skills at the same time.
“For UNICEF, the real challenge is teaching children healthy habits and safe behaviours through entertainment,” said UNICEF Lebanon Communications Chief Soha Bsat Boustani. “It is through play that children build their social, physical, cognitive, emotional and creative skills.”
“Children love these activities," said summer camp coordinator Iman Izz El Dine. “UNICEF brings joy, care and hope for the children. Children are overjoyed to come here every day.”
One year later, healing the scars of war in Lebanon [with video]