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Ahmad’s family overcomes distress caused by conflict in Yemen with help of psychosocial support

UNICEF Yemen/2018
© UNICEF Yemen/2018
A Yemeni family from Sa’ada.

Sa’ada, Yemen, 13 November 2018 - Children in Yemen are at grave risk as the violence continues to escalate across the country. The damage and closure of schools and health facilities threaten children's access to education and health services, which renders them vulnerable to various protection concerns, including early marriage, forced recruitment and psychosocial distress.

Ahmad and Noor are the parents of five children aged from 4 to 15 years old. They live in Maran district in Sa’ada governorate. The ongoing conflict in Yemen had significant effects on the family who suffered many tragedies and has now to face a harsh economic situation.

The family’s house was damaged during the conflict and Ahmad is unable to work due to disability. The entire family depends on his disability allowance and on some small cash assistance they receive from other organizations. In addition, the children had to leave school to sell goods to help the family to cover their basic needs.

“We thought we are going to make it and that the war will end but over the years, our situation became even worse and we quickly ended up being trapped in a non-ending cycle of fear, pressure and exhaustion,” recognizes Ahmad.

During one night of heavy fighting, Ahmad and Noor decided to leave their home in search for a safer place for their children, fleeing their village and leaving all they had behind. The family is now living in a camp for displaced people in Sa’ada with other families.

After a while, their 7-year-old son, Mohamed , started to show some signs of psychological distress as he could not forget the sound of bombs dropping and shelling. He had difficulty concentrating at school and stopped socializing with his classmates, which quickly led him to complete isolation.

A psychosocial caseworker from UNICEF visited the family and organized a series of sessions to help them to overcome their traumas caused by the conflict, their harsh economic situation and their displacement. The sessions began with some trust-building meetings and continued later with a set of activities designed to provide the family members with specific tools so they could manage their fears better, cope with their stress and help each other.

The psychosocial worker also carried out active listening sessions with Mohamed so he could express his concerns and feelings in a safe space, in addition to outdoor and sport activities to help him find a coping mechanism to his trauma.

After few sessions, Mohamed’ situation significantly improved and the family started understanding their son better and knowing how to help him, while nourishing an atmosphere of joy and love in their household.

Mohamed stopped having nightmares at night and started playing again with his siblings and friends. His parents and the children became more aware of the importance to stay cohesive and support each other. The family reached a state of psychological stability, especially the 7-year-old child, which was positive to the wellbeing of the entire family.

The family is grateful to the caseworker for the support and are now praising the psychosocial support provided to them to all families in Sa’ada.

UNICEF Child Protection Programme provides psychosocial support to conflict-affected children in Yemen and strives to protect children’s rights. From January to October 2018, more than 625,000 children and their caregivers living in conflict-affected areas are receiving psychosocial support from UNICEF and its implementing partners, with the generous contributions of various donors, such as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

* Name changed to protect the child’s identity



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