Improve children's wellbeing and learning in Central Sahel: increasing psychosocial support in schools

Organisation(s): Norwegian Refugee Council; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; UNICEF

Date: 2022

Pages: 5 p.

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The security crisis on the central Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger) has been deteriorating due to an increased number of attacks from non-State armed groups (NSAGs) and inter-communal disputes. The humanitarian impact of this crisis is worrisome with a number of displaced people multiplied by 10, growing from 213,000 in 2013 to 2.5 million at the end of 2021. Insecurity in the Central Sahel region, combined with extreme poverty, climate change, food insecurity, malnutrition and the COVID-19 pandemic has driven around 3.5 million people among which 1.7 million are children in need of humanitarian assistance. On top of the general insecurity and increased violence leading to mass displacements, deliberate attacks and threats on schools and against teachers and students, in school or on their way to school, are becoming more and more common, which further worsens the situation of children and jeopardizes their future. Over 5.500 schools were closed due to insecurity at the end of 2021 and 13 million children out of schools. Attacks on schools have exacerbated existing structural challenges to education for all (poverty, poor school infrastructure, low attendance rate, insufficient number of well-trained teachers), and, in some cases, have reversed decades of progress. The impact on displaced children has not only been physical or material but also psychological and mental as they witnessed violence of all kinds leading to trauma affecting their behaviour and their learning capacities and seriously compromising their future. To address this situation, improve learning and restore hope of the displaced children in Central Sahel, NRC, UNHCR and UNICEF have been implementing several activities other the past years. In December 2020, NRC launched the Better Learning Program (BLP) implemented by teachers to support children’s recovery from the traumatic events experienced during conflict and displacement. The programme improves conditions for learning through mobilization of a child’s support network of caregivers, teachers and counsellors to assess and address the level of mental and psychological trauma faced by children. In 2021, UNHCR has strengthened the capacity of teachers and members of community structures in refugee and IDP hosting areas of the three countries by organizing training sessions dedicated to the psychosocial support (PSS) of students. Psychosocial support was also provided on an individual basis for cases requiring child protection interventions. UNICEF has broadly taken a multi-sectoral approach to providing psychosocial support to children in the Sahel, across education, child protection and nutrition activities in particular. Moving forward, there will be an increasing drive to consider this within the broader consideration of mental health as a foundation for resilience and learning. As part of NRC BLP Program, an assessment has been conducted, in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali aiming to measure promoters and barriers for learning before and after interventions.

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