Rehabilitation program for young victims of Sa’ada war [Archives:2008/1142/Local News]

March 31 2008

Almigdad Mojalli
SANA'A, March 30 ) The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, in collaboration with UNICEF, will commence a psychological rehabilitation program for the children of Sa'ada governorate by the beginning of April.

Adel Dabwan, the general manager of social protection in the ministry, said the program aims to rehabilitate children psychologically and to absorb the psychological trauma that they were exposed to during the war.

The program is planned to target 1,500 children and 500 families of those affected by the war between the government and the rebel Al-Houthi movement in some districts of Sa'ada.

Aid workers say children and adolescents in Sa'ada have experienced high levels of psychological trauma as a result of prolonged fighting between government forces and the Shiite rebel group.

Their assertion is based in part on the results of a UN Children's Fund survey carried out by the Medical Charitable Association (MCA), a local non-governmental organization (NGO). The psycho-social assessment survey covered all 15 of Sa'ada's districts in August-October 2007.

Some 1,400 respondents were selected, 630 of whom were children and adolescents. 92.4 percent of the sampled children and adolescents had been exposed to armed conflict; 5.7 percent were evacuated temporarily from their villages during armed conflict; 44 percent were forced to hide to save their lives; 43.4 percent saw the destruction of their own houses or those of their friends; 28 percent felt they were about to die during the conflict; 15 percent were injured; 13.8 percent had at least one family member killed; and 10 percent had one family member missing.

Sa'ada governorate has only seven health facilities, and a population of approximately 700,000. There is no specialized facility for psychological cases. Nour Al-Kassadi, head of the UNICEF's Child Protection Department, stated that the UNICEF started preparing for the program in October 2007 by evaluating the social and psychological impacts of the war. “Then, in accordance with the findings, we determined the training of the social and psychological support in four stages,” Al-Kassadi stated.

According to Al-Kassadi, the first stage of the training will target social workers, teachers, nurses and NGOs, who will be trained on how to rehabilitate children and mothers, giving them ways to deal and cope with post-war trauma. The second stage will target mosques preachers and local council members, who will be responsible for raising awareness to prevent involving children in armed conflict. The third stage will target Sa'ada's community, providing them with awareness symposiums about children's rights, child labor, protecting children, child trafficking and not involving children in wars.

In the fourth stage, all of the trainees will work together as a team to accomplish their shared goal.

The program will work to provide homes for the children who lost one or both of their parents. “Many children lost their mothers or fathers and sometimes both, and now we will try to look for them to get them back to their parents. In case we don't find the parents, we will put the children into the custody of at least one of their relatives to absorb the psychological impact,” Al-Kassadi explained.

The program will also take children to places for entertainment, like parks and kindergartens, and will involve women in handicraft workshops.