Update on the UNRWA project to provide psychological support to minors in Homs

Al-Zahria School, Refugee Camp in Aleppo, Siria Al-Zahria School, Refugee Camp in Aleppo, Siria © 2017 Unrwa, by Ahmad Abu Zaid

After the so-called “Nakba” (a term used to refer to the Palestinian Arabs’ displacement from the territories occupied by Israel during the first Arab-Israeli war), which took place in 1948, Syria has hosted refugee camps for Palestinians within its territory. The camps currently host around 16,000 people utterly dependent on humanitarian assistance. Since the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA - United Nations Relief and Works Agency) has reported the persisting access restrictions of humanitarian aids due to the figthing. As is the case in every conflict, unfortunately, the youngest people are the most affected. In Syria, this occurs especially to Palestinian refugee children. Many of them have suffered multiple displacements. Others have lost family members and relatives during the conflict. These events have a devastating psychological impact on children: stress, post-traumatic stress disorders, and anxiety can impact on their learning capabilities, behaviour, and social relations with schoolmates, teachers, and family itself. UNRWA has launched a support program for protecting and improving the overall well-being of Palestinian children, families, and communities, in order to help them overcome the crisis and reinforce their psycosocial health. The informal education activities implemented have dealt with themes such as gender-based violence awareness: they aim at developing the students’ social abilities and have been carried out both in schools and communities. ANVCG (National Association for Civilian Victims of War), with the contribution of the Observatory, supported UNRWA’s psychosocial support program, thorugh a project aimed at mitigating the impact of the crisis on the children of Latakia, Homs, Hama, and in the camp of Neirab (in the area of Aleppo). The project included the realization of leisure activities which have provided children with a safe and protected environment, through art, drawing, music, and sport. A place where they can express their own creative selves and face fears and concerns with the support and under the guidance of trained and specialised staff. The activities carried out between October and November 2017 involved a total amount of 3,722 children from 4 to 14 years of age, among which 24 children with disabilities. Artistic initiative “Il mio sogno” (“My Dream”) was implemented in Latakia and Hama; sports activities were carried out in Aleppo; artistic, musical and sports initiatives were promoted in the camp of Neirab. The project also included the construction of a playground in Homs, built thanks to the economic support of ANVCG: it includes seesaws, swings, and roundabouts, which offer Palestinian refugee children a place where they can play and which they can consider safe and far from the war surrounding them.