Port Vila, 10 April 2015 – The UN agency for children, UNICEF, this week trained more than 50 professionals from diverse backgrounds to help address the psychosocial needs of children following stressful and traumatising experiences, less than a month after Category 5 tropical Cyclone Pam devastated the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.
UNICEF and the Government of Vanuatu’s Ministries of Education, Justice and Health, led a training workshop for education, child protection and health professionals, together with creative artists, to enhance skills and develop appropriate communication products to meet the psychosocial needs of children affected by any emergency. Other participants included people with disabilities and those working in a range of aspects of child survival, development, protection and participation.
“After an emergency the trauma to our youngest children may not be fully realised because, apart from crying, they are the least vocal and the least able to express in words what they feel. Young children are also very affected by the anxious or troubled behaviour of their caregivers, including through rapid heartbeats, tight muscles, shouting and a disruption in daily loving and nurturing routines. Older children, of course, also pick up on anxiety and the fearful behaviour of parents. So teachers, parents and other caregivers need to understand how to help themselves recover from fear and anxiety and how to help both older and younger children - even infants, to recover. The sooner this happens after an emergency, the better everyone’s chances for a complete emotional and psychological recovery,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative Dr. Karen Allen.
Groups working with Vila East Primary School Students
The intensive five-day workshop drew on international research and experience around the world to help participants understand the impact of stress and trauma on young children, as well as some of the best practices in nurturing self-confidence and overall healthy development.
Workshop participants were also trained in how to produce international standard, holistic and inclusive print and broadcast communication and learning materials. These include the development of children’s books, illustrations, radio and television spots, posters, videos and animations.
Participants working in their productions.
Workshop facilitator and international consultant to UNICEF, Barbara Kolucki reiterated that some of the messages that need to be reinforced with children include: that they are loved, they will be protected, that their range of families are normal and accepted, that they are listened to, that there are helpers and people to go to when they are afraid and that things will get better.
“Even the youngest children can begin to learn to be resilient and to have healthy coping skills during and after emergencies. These skills need to be nurtured and supported by loving caregivers. Nothing takes the place of human contact and nurturing but simple, practical, developmentally-appropriate communication can also assist children during these difficult times,” Kolucki added.
Kolucki has worked in over 30 countries over the past two decades including countries that have experienced emergencies and conflict. Her expertise is in building national capacity to produce culturally and developmentally-appropriate communication for, about and with children.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicefpacific.org
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