18 November 2022
Reaching refugee and migrant children during COVID-19
725 refugee and migrant children participated in UNICEF-supported psychosocial support sessions and referrals to specialized mental health services – almost 3 times more than the number originally targeted for the Initiative. 450 refugee and migrant children participated in UNICEF-supported gender-based violence (GBV) prevention activities and referral to national authorities’ GBV response services – 3 times more than the number originally targeted. Implementing partners: Centro Penc, INTERSOS, Medicins du Monde, Save the Children. The independent evaluation of the ‘RM Child-Health’ Initiative has taken stock of its impact in Italy since 2020.  It has confirmed that the Initiative’s preventive, cross-sectoral and comprehensive approach to health is helping to build long-term resilience. Italy is a prime example, as refugee flows into the country have changed in terms of their origins and arrival locations. More refugees are now arriving from Greece and Turkey, rather than via the North Africa route, and refugees are arriving in different locations, such as Calabria and Sardinia, rather than Lampedusa in Sicily. Some have landed on the shores of Roccella Ionica, for example, a small town of just 6,000 inhabitants in Calabria, where health facilities are limited. UNICEF and its partners have been able to draw on the experience of the ‘RM Child Health’ Initiative to create a resilient response by: mapping existing services at the regional level so partners can refer new arrivals setting up services at the disembarkation point as well as reception facilities, so the team at the disembarkation point can send key information to the team at the reception centre about the health needs of unaccompanied and separated refugee and migrant children, in particular. establishing networks of local authorities, service providers and non-governmental organizations to support the response drawing on the Initiative’s previous experience on psychological first aid, the information needs of refugees and migrants, and activities to reduce stress so that local partners have ‘ready-made’ solutions to offer new arrivals establishing a partnership with an association of cultural mediators that has a roster, enabling partners to mobilize mediators who speak different languages and who understand diverse cultures. The Initiative has also supported the mapping of best practices and ‘what works’ in mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services for refugee and migrant children, as well as referral mechanisms. It has supported the development of materials in diverse languages that are now available for linguistic and cultural mediators, health workers, social workers and others. These include Q&As on subjects that are often sensitive and difficult for young refugees, migrants and even frontline workers to discuss, such as GBV and (in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund) sexual and reproductive health and rights. Most recently, the Initiative has supported the development, production and dissemination of clear information on menstrual hygiene. All materials have used clear, concise, user-friendly language to dispel the many myths and misconceptions around these issues. Realizing the greater difficulties faced by refugees and migrants in accessing services as a result of lockdowns, UNICEF’s partners in Italy continued to deliver remote and in-person health screenings and online psychological support and case management to those who were most vulnerable.  ,  Brochures on immunization, GBV and mental health and MHPSS were disseminated during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as short videos on all these topics, which are available through U-Report on the Move.  The impact often went beyond health itself: UNICEF has enhanced the capacity of partners on Protection Against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA)  and shared indicators and tools to inform work with unaccompanied and separated children, strengthening the capacity of frontline staff to work with these children.  One partner also noted that support for documentation linked to COVID-19 resulted in more refugee and migrant children attending school (even if virtually) and a decrease in dropouts.  This story is part of the Project ‘Strengthening Refugee and Migrant Children’s Health Status in Southern and South Eastern Europe’, Co-funded by the Health Programme of the European Union (the ‘RM Child-Health’ initiative). It represents the views of the author only and is her sole responsibility; it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission and the Agency do not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.  Names of refugees and migrants have been changed to protect privacy.  IOD PARC , Evaluation of the UNICEF Project: Strengthening Refugee and Migrant Children’s Health Status in Southern and South-Eastern Europe  International Professional staff.  Italy: detailed Implementation Plan, revised 01062020.  U-Report is a digital platform that lets young migrants and refugees in Italy speak out on issues that matter to them and be heard by decision makers: U-Report On The Move | Linktree  International Professional staff.  Government representative.  International Professional staff.