Jinan’s future lit brighter through Psychosocial Support Program
“We were afraid of going out by ourselves, because we were new and we felt lonely”
Situated on the outskirts of Erbil, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Debaga Camp is home to more than 3,309 individuals and 1,396 families who were forced to flee their homes and internally displaced due to conflict.
“It’s been one year. I came here with my mother and sisters. My father is imprisoned. I have 5 sisters and two little brothers and when we first came, we were scared, we had no one to rely on,” says Jinan, a 13-year-old girl who fled her home last year.
Jinan is one of the 4,017 children living in this camp, most of them in need of some sort of support, deepened due to COVID-19. Children spent prolonged periods in tents with reduced possibilities to interact with peers and take part in group activities, which severely affected their psychosocial condition. The rise in unemployment and the cost of living due to the crisis consequently exacerbated protection risks while access to legal assistance and community-based support was reduced due to movement restriction and disruption of services. Thus, displaced children in camps were disproportionately affected by child protection risk factors, including lack of access to education.
“We were afraid of going out by ourselves, because we were new and we felt lonely,” Jinan recalls. “Then the social workers came to us. We felt so happy that someone at last knocked at our door and encouraged us to get out. She helped me make friends and made me more courageous.”
UNICEF, in cooperation with implementing partners, has been working in Debaga Camp since their opening in 2015. With the support from the European Union, the program identifies highly vulnerable children in need of specialized child protection services and make sure they are provided with psychosocial support programs. Children also engage in drawing and weaving courses, and many of them learn music and how to play instruments, such as guitar. Strengthening community-based child protection capacity and mechanisms is also one of the key outcomes.
“Many things changed in me. For example, I was not able to complete my studies, but Miss Payman (social worker from UNICEF-supported project) encouraged me to complete my studies. Now I am always going to school and will never give up,” Jinan’s face lit up as she expressed her joy thanks to her improved learning.
Through the psychosocial support programs, Jinan found her passion, dancing. She formed a dance group with her friends in the camp and performs on celebratory occasions such as International Women’s Day.
“I will continue to dance, I will never stop,” says Jinan. Finding a passion at her age is a powerful tool to cope with the challenges she faces in the camp.
Jinan shares her story right next to the UNICEF-supported child-friendly space where children play. These spaces offer children like Jinan the chance to access psychosocial support programs through trained Child Protection workers, play sports, enjoy music, create art, spend time with friends, and just be children again. UNICEF will continue to provide support for displaced children and their communities to ensure that no child is left behind.