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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

Psychosocial support and well-being

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-1677/Marta Ramoneda
Boys play a board game at a UNICEF-supported child-friendly space, at the Prang Government Primary School in Charsadda District, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. UNICEF supports medical services and other programmes for flood victims at the school.

Conflicts and natural disasters significantly impact children’s psychosocial well-being and development. Exposure to violence, disaster, loss of, or separation from, family members and friends, deterioration in living conditions, inability to provide for one’s self and family, and lack of access to services can all have immediate and long-term consequences for children, families and communities and impair their ability to function and be fulfilled.

UNICEF and its partners provide crucial psychosocial support for children during emergency situations to help them overcome such difficult experiences. These efforts include culturally and age appropriate, safe and stimulating activities such as sports and games to develop life skills and coping mechanisms, and support resiliency. UNICEF strengthens the ability of community members to support their children, families and neighbours by disseminating key messages on how to cope with emergency situations through a variety of channels including the media, religious organisations, existing community structures and youth groups. UNICEF uses child friendly spaces to organize activities in a safe and stimulating environment where affected communities and children can be supported. UNICEF also provides specialized referral services for children with behavioural issues, or who may need extra support, so that appropriate networks of care may be engaged. 

Finally, as part of the Inter-agency standing committee on mental health and psychosocial support reference group, UNICEF has endorsed the Guidelines on mental health and psychosocial support in emergency settings (2007), working with health, education, protection and camp management partners to develop strategies and policies, address gaps in services, and help humanitarian workers better understand how to effectively serve populations living through times of crisis in a way which reinforces their well-being, dignity, and resiliency.

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"The term 'psychosocial' denotes the inter-connection between psychological and social processes and the fact that each continually interacts with and influences the other.  […] the composite term mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) is used to describe any type of local or outside support that aims to protect or promote psychosocial well-being and/or prevent or treat mental disorder."

In IASC Reference Group for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings. Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Humanitarian Emergencies: What should humanitarian health actors know? Geneva, 2010.

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