Author: Arntson, L.
This report is a retrospective review of approximately 14 months of psychosocial support activities that began in October 1999 in the Kabul camp for internally-displaced persons (IDPs) in the former Soviet Union embassy compound funded by UNICEF and implemented by Save the Children/US (SC/US). The development and continuation of psychosocial support activities that is the focus of this review were expressly aimed at involving the IDP community in improving the sense of security, regularity, and order in the lives of children, youth, mothers/care-givers and families housed in the camp and, in this way, reinforce the psychosocial well-being of children to mitigate the effects of war and its aftermath.
Purpose / Objective
In order to learn from and build on this experience, Save the Children (SC/US) and UNICEF Afghanistan undertook this review of program activities, achievement of anticipated results, and an evaluation of the relationship of program outcome to needs in the Kabul IDP Camp. This will contribute to the establishment of guidelines for future UNICEF and SC/US responses to the needs of displaced children in emergencies.
In January and February of 2001, household survey and focus group data were collected, transcribed, and translated for this review. In all, 20 focus groups discussions were conducted that included mothers, fathers, community health educators, youth, youth sports committee members, girls, boys and camp school teachers.
Key Findings and Conclusions
Overall, the psychosocial support program was successful in that it provided opportunities for building resiliency, a sense of self-esteem and competency, and skills among IDP children, youth, mothers/care-givers, and families in the Kabul camp. This review of the psychosocial support program was able to identify, retrospectively, progress toward: building social support networks, especially for mothers and adolescent girls; increasing access to health information and services; increasing educational opportunities for primary school-age children; and encouraging a positive outlook toward the future.
Lessons learned from this program can contribute to future psychosocial program interventions for displaced children, youth, and families. In replicating the activities that were implemented in the Kabul IDP camp, and in adjusting the on-going activities to meet newly identified needs as they arise, we can reflect on lessons learned such as the following:
- Identifying potential barriers to, and strategies for, involving more children and youth in school, organized and unorganized recreation, and youth committee/leadership activities
- Strategies for building the effectiveness of home visits
- More appropriate responses to mothers' needs
- Exploring additional psychosocial needs and program responses
Recommendations based on this review should be received in a positive light, for what they offer for building on the existing program and for future programming. Since psychosocial programming is still a relatively new field, much more needs to be learned about the effect of specific program activities. As we accumulate experiences from programs like this, we can continue to improve our responses to the needs of children, youth, mothers/care-givers and families in complex emergencies. Key recommendations resulting from this include:
- Involving fathers, brothers, and other male kin in the camp more actively in program activities. This might involve: mobilizing men in the camp for regular garbage clean-up days and upkeep of the latrines; involving men in education promotion by providing them with basic training in early childhood development and peaceful conflict resolution skills; and enlisting their help in the upkeep of the school and recreational/play spaces.
- Organizing additional recreational activities, such as inclusive, large, non-competitive games and expand the youth sports committees to take on other youth recreational activities.
- Coordinating the participatory involvement of health volunteers (home visitors) better with program monitoring tools in order to help identify further training needs and better identification of appropriate health messages.
- Mobilizing mothers/care-givers into groups for pre-school and play opportunities for children.
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Health - Mental Health
Save the Children