14 December 2022

Community-based Mental Health and Psychosocial Support and Child Friendly Spaces in Timor-Leste

While the COVID-19 pandemic was impacting the country, in April 2021, Timor-Leste had to face the Seroja Cyclone flooding emergency affecting more than 45.000 people. In response to the emergency, UNICEF and the Ministry of Social Solidarity and Inclusion (MSSI) developed a community-based Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) intervention. From April to May 2021, thirteen Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) were implemented in the evacuation camps in collaboration with eight NGOs and three youth organizations, reaching more than 1.300 children affected by the flood. After the flood emergency, the families and children slowly moved back to their communities. Hence the MHPSS activities needed to continue, helping to activate and restore natural support within the community and families, aimed to prevent and address domestic violence, child abuse, and neglect. UNICEF and the MSSI, in partnership with the NGO Ba Futuru, implemented the community-based MHPSS - CFS interventions and developed a toolbox to support children and families in vulnerable and emergency settings, accordioning to the Child and Family Welfare Policy, where the government’s commitment to encouraging community-based programming aimed at preventing and addressing domestic violence, child abuse, and neglect. The community-based MHPSS- CFS provides children with opportunities to access structured play, recreation, and leisure in a way that strengthens their resilience and existing protective factors through various activities such as playing and learning art, theatre, games, storytelling, singing, and dancing. The Activity Guideline for Community-Based Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support – Child Friendly Spaces, is the result of the work and coordination among specialized professionals, volunteers, and the Children. It aims to provide orientation to deliver psycho-social support activities for children and families to reduce and prevent violence, strengthen resilience to recover from adversity, and improve the care conditions that enable children and families to be protected, survive, and thrive. This Guideline can be used by community volunteers, social workers, organizations working with children, shelter counselors, child protection officers, and social animators. We can now use this activity guideline to support the children and families well-being in Timor-Leste.