UNICEF PLaCES Help Displaced Children Recover from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
By A. Sami Malik
JALOZAI, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 1 November 2013 - Twelve-year-old Mohammadia, beams with confidence as she talks about her interest in academics and ambition to become a teacher when she grows up. It is hard to believe that only six months ago, she suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) exhibiting phobia, lack of confidence and extreme introvert behaviour. Convinced that Mohammadia needed specialised treatment, her school teacher referred her to a psychologist in one of the UNICEF-supported Protective Learning and Community Emergency Services (PLaCES) in Jalozai Camp, Nowshera District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.
Mohammadia’s family hails from Khyber Agency, a tribal area in the KP. Her father, Sher Mohammad Khan had a small land holding in his village where he grew vegetables and sold them in the local market to feed his family – a wife and five children. In 2009, the family was forced to leave their village due to insecurity and move to the Jalozai Camp.
Recalling the situation that forced her family to leave their village, Mohammadia says, “We would hear blasts and gun fire many times during the day and night. It was so scary that we remained indoors all the time. One day, we learnt that two of my cousins had been killed and the militants had given people in the village three days to move out. We left in the middle of the night, quietly, hired a transport and managed to get to the camp.”
When Mohammadia’s family arrived in Jalozai camp in 2009, she found it very difficult to adjust to the new environment. She started going to a camp school but could not perform well in academics. Her teacher referred her to a psychologist, Anila Farman, who works for the Centre of Excellence for Rural Development (CERD), a Non-Governmental Organisation managing UNICEF-supported 21 PLaCES and outreach mobile services in Jalozai camp.
“Mohammadia was shy, isolated and would get seizures due to stress and fear,” says Anila Farman. “Her confidence level was very low and she could not explain her condition to anyone. I started her psychotherapy and conducted two sessions with her every week. I encouraged her to take part in academic and recreational activities along with other children. The treatment worked and she started to respond.”
In order to provide a protective environment for internally displaced children and women at risk of violence, abuse neglect and exploitation, UNICEF through its implementing partners has established 32 static PLaCES in three IDP camps accommodating families displaced due to insecurity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The Australian National Committee for UNICEF has provided funds to support these services.
Services provided in UNICEF-supported PLaCES include psycho-social support to overcome PTSD, learning through recreational activities, vocational training and life skills, awareness raising on gender based violence, health and hygiene, birth registration, mine risk education and positive parenting practices.
Attending the UNICEF-supported PLaCES transformed Mohammadia into a confident and eager to achieve young girl. Her behaviour and attitude towards learning has not only normalised but has also made her ambitious about the future. She wants to continue her education and participates in all sorts of learning and recreational activities.
Psychologist, Anila Rehman says, “The positive change in Mohammadia has also impacted her parents. They hope to receive protective and learning services for their children when they return to their village. They are keen about their children’s academic achievement and consider it a blessing in disguise as they could not have imagined all these services in their village.”
During October 2012 to June 2013, more than 19,000 children and over 5,000 women received protective and learning services through the 32 static PLaCES and four outreach mobile services managed by UNICEF and its NGO partners in three IDP camps. In addition, nearly 53,000 people received key messages and benefitted from various awareness raising sessions.