Philippines

Thousands of flood-affected children in the Philippines may need help coping with psychosocial distress

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Many of the estimated 330,000 children in Philippines’ flood-affected areas may need psychosocial support to help them deal with the distress caused by flash floods that hit Mindanao two weeks ago, warns Save the Children.

“Many children experienced the loss of their loved ones, homes and belongings, and are feeling fearful, helpless, insecure and uncertain. Since many of the adults are in distress too, they may be unable to provide the children the necessary support and comfort. Horrific memories of flash floods smashing their towns and cities could be triggered by heavy rains, firecrackers, pictures of unidentified dead people and even films played in evacuation centres,” said Australian Sarah Ireland, Save the Children’s emergency response team leader in the Philippines.

Beverly (not her real name), aged 7, who lives in an evacuation centre in Iligan City told Save the Children, “There were firecrackers being set off over Christmas. I’m scared of the loud booming noises because they sound just like the floods.”

To minimise the distress and anxiety on the young and infants, Save the Children is calling on local authorities to enforce a ban on firecrackers in flood-affected areas this holiday season and install a centralised zone for the identification of dead family members.

To help child survivors deal with the horrifying experience of living through the floods and in some cases losing family members, Save the Children is conducting psychosocial support sessions that consist of creative art workshops, play groups and group processing activities. Child-friendly spaces are also set up so children can gather to play and talk about their experiences with children of a similar age.

“We're providing children with a space to talk freely about their experiences and fears,” said Sarah Ireland. “From there, we can assess the resilience of each child, which is crucial in the healing process. Children who manifest extreme fear or behaviours are referred to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and later to the Department of Health or to mental health practitioners for assessment and care.”

Returning to the rhythm of a school semester is also crucial for children to regain a sense of normality in their lives. Peers in school can also provide support through sharing their experiences. But many schools have been damaged and teaching materials lost in the floods.

“Our concern is that children may choose not to go to school if the next nearest school that has not been flood-damaged is far away. The longer they stay out of school, the more formal education they will miss. Some children may even drop out altogether. Save the Children is looking to repair and refurbish ten flood-affected schools with an enrolment of 12,000 children within the next four weeks,” said Sarah Ireland.

Save the Children has also prepared back-to-school kits for children, including a backpack, stationery, a raincoat and a water bottle. Many children have reported that their school materials have been swept away in the floods. Teachers will be briefed on supporting and addressing the psychosocial needs of their students.

In the longer-term, Save the Children and its local partners plan to train children to serve as peer support to other children, which will help address both their peers and their own psychosocial needs. Child-protection teams in communities will also be identified and trained to observe how children are coping and refer cases to appropriate agencies.

ENDS

Note to Editors:

  • The figure of 330,000 was derived from the NDRRMC's flood-affected individuals number of 719,485. According to the 2007 census, 46% of the population are children.

  • Save the Children has been helping children in the Philippines for 30 years

  • Save the Children is distributing life-saving water, hygiene items like soaps and toothbrushes, household items, and education items to children and their families in flood-affected Philippines

  • To date, Save the Children has reached nearly 3000 children