Marawi kids undergo psychosocial treatment
MANILA, Philippines – What kind of help do the children affected by the ongoing clash in Marawi receive?
Various advocates and humanitarian organizations have repeatedly emphasized: children in violent environments need more than relief aid – they need immediate psychosocial support. Fortunately, in Marawi, there are deployed groups whose aim is to help children cope with the conflict that has besieged their hometown.
For some Philippine soldiers, the evacuation center is their battleground. Their goal is not to kill enemies but to provide assistance to the kids displaced by the war.
"Masaya po ako.. gusto ko po maglaro sa mga kuya ko," one of the kids said, referring to the soldiers who participated in the activity. (I am happy. I want to play with my brother)
Spearheaded by a US-based alumni association in partnership with Lanao del Sur Provincial Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, at least 70 child-refugees participated in a series of activities aimed at entertaining and empowering the children, who struggle with staying in evacuation centers.
"Despite the language gap, beneficiaries were noticed genuinely laughing and enjoying the series of activities and the interactions," said Colonel Thomas Sedano of the Joint Task Group Tabang.
These children are sheltered at the Lanao del Sur Capitol Evacuation Center. They make up a small portion of the total number of internally displaced persons by the armed conflict which the Department of Social and Welfer Development (DSWD) estimate to be at least 78,466 families or 359,680 persons as of July 31.
"Most of the instructions were done through sign language so that the kids will be able to understand the mechanics of the activity," he noted.
"We want to take part in the initiatives of the government and concerned stakeholders in assuring the protection and welfare of the civilians who are caught in the crossfire," Brigadier Ramiro Rey of the joint Task Force Ranao also said.
Through this program, Ranalo said the children’s attention will be diverted away from the trauma caused by the war.
Earlier in June, the DSWD, in partnership with other humanitarian organizations, has also set up women and child-friendly spaces in evacuation centers in Iligan City.
So both women and children can feel safe – free from violence, trauma, and threats – children in these special places are provided tools to draw and toys to play with while women are given a space to breastfeed their babies.
The safe space also serves as a place for them to meet, talk, and help each other.
"They (women) face greater risks as they try to keep their families together. It has also been documented by various humanitarian agencies that women tend to be less aware of how to protect themselves, and this is because they are often left out of the planning process when it comes to emergency preparedness," explained Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo in a press statement. – Rappler.com