2003 Algeria: Psychosocial Care for Children Traumatized by Terrorist Violence
Author: Elmasri, M. M. A.
Algeria has gone through a decade of terrorist violence that has targeted all aspects of normal life. Several spontaneous initiatives from the public sector and civil society came to address the issue of children traumatized by terrorist violence. Initial assessment of needs and resources done by local experts, with the help of international consultants, defined the needs developing the capacity of local resources in the area of psychosocial care for children traumatized by terrorist violence. In response to the needs, UNICEF has launched a project for the psychosocial rehabilitation of children traumatized by terrorist violence. The project has developed through several stages, from an initial response to the crises to a partnership in development with public sectors and non-governmental organization.
The overall aim of the evaluation is assess and analyze the Algerian experience of psychosocial care for children exposed to trauma caused by terrorist violence. It is an opportunity to document the experience, assess the strengths and weaknesses, and identify priorities for the coming years.
The objectives to be achieved by this evaluation relate to the relevance, efficacy, effectiveness and impact of UNICEF-supported project activities in addressing child problems related to terrorist violence:
- Describe the nature and scope of the problem of trauma caused by terrorist violence and the diverse approaches to care and support of victims of violence by different structures, groups and the community
- Analyze the relevance, role, effectiveness, efficiency and quality of the psychosocial approach in projects supported by UNICEF in Algeria to assist children traumatized by terrorist violence in the areas most affected
- Analyze and evaluate the capacity of services and community networks to provide effective care for children victims of terrorist violence
- Assess the contribution made by UNICEF-supported psychosocial work in Algeria towards the development of social policy and an increased awareness by the Government and the general public of problems and consequences of trauma caused by terrorist violence
- Identify and analyze the lessons learnt from the Algerian experience, and recommend priority strategies and actions for the future.
Evaluation methodology used a mixed-method participatory evaluation framework with quantitative and qualitative approaches. Data collection depended on existing records, reports and research data collected through project activities, interviews with key persons in the different sectors, focus groups with adolescents, psychologists and teachers, and several case studies of children and families affected by violence.
Findings and Conclusions:
Focus groups with adolescents, teachers and psychologists, and results from the research component, point out the complexity of violence phenomena and their effects on the psychosocial well-being of children. The range of child and adolescent reactions to violence were multiple and cover the areas addressed by psychology, psychiatry, education, law, community and culture. They also support the call for a global approach to child well-being in the framework of the Child’s Rights Convention.
The project has achieved an important objective of developing the capacity of human resources. A large number of psychologists, psychiatrists, teachers, school counselors and general practitioners have been reached by the training component. The outcome is the emergence of an informal network of professionals active in the area of psychosocial care for children in general, and with those affected by violence in particular. The project has attempted to consolidate the network through supporting a group of focal points around which project activities were planned and implemented, and decentralization of the project activities to the Wilayas most affected by violence.
A major objective was the technical and material support for structures active in providing services for traumatized children. In this area, the project contributed with a major investment in material and equipment to more than 40 structures in the public and NGO sectors. Utilization of this mode of support was non-specific for children traumatized by terrorist violence, but extended to include children in general, and even adults e.g. mothers in several areas. Some of the materials were partially used e.g. psychological tests because of lack of skills.
The project has also addressed the objective of social mobilization through its technical and material support for the associations active in the area of child psychosocial care. Several NGOs with pioneering initiatives have been reached and involved in the psychosocial care for children affected by violence. Developing and supporting spaces for expression and rehabilitation for children and women have invited better community participation and involvement, and more learning about community and culture.
Communication and coordination of activities among the different sectors and partners have been a major problem since the start of the project. Several attempts and strategies have been adopted by the project to overcome this problem, and managed to partly activate communication around the project objectives. Communication and coordination, however, remains one of the most important obstacles to further development.
The impact of the project activities extend beyond the initial objectives and has contributed to developments in mental health policies and services, in general. In the remaining period, the project should focus on linking the developments at each level with the development on the other levels. The network should be linked with the technical management through documentation of the experience, information and data collection. The different sectors should be connected through re-activation of the intersectorial management of the project in a new form that takes into consideration the realities of the field. The technical management should be linked with the development through monitoring and evaluation, and supervision. In summary, the project’s future focus should be on supporting communication, coordination and exchange, and re-establishing the focus on the psychosocial needs of children and adolescents affected by violence. Training seminars have been the major forum for exchange and networking. Recognition and formalization of this fact can help in developing a new process of exchange under the title of training, supervision or networking.
The training component needs to be developed to another level. Although in-focus groups' trainees demanded more training on a long-term basis, training in long-term care, specific interventions like group therapy and evaluation of competence of different interveners point to the need to consolidate basic techniques of interviewing and counseling individuals, groups and families as well as different forms of outreach and community work.
In the area of research, the study on the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder in school children has provided justification for the project. Future needs should be directed to understanding the complexity of the phenomena of violence and its effects on a more global level of child development, and the nature and effectiveness of professional and traditional preventive and therapeutic interventions delivered in the field. Another priority in the remaining period should be the decentralization of project activities to areas where it has developed substantial resources. More investment is needed in the Wilayas where the process of psychosocial care for children has gained momentum. Several local initiatives in the public sector and civil sector have been identified - to be highlighted and replicated. Results of this evaluation, together with the accumulated experience of research and monitoring, should assist in planning for future activities.
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