1,700 children being treated in 40 centres

April 18, 2006


ISLAMABAD, April 17: More than 1,700 children from the quake-hit areas are being treated in 40 supervised play centres established by the United States Agency for International Development and the International Rescue Committee.

According to a press release issued here on Sunday, the children were in need of emotional and social support and these child-friendly spaces provided a safe place to restore routine life in areas where schools were destroyed.

Azra Iqbal, a resident of Malkan village, NWFP, supervises two shifts at the village’s 170-member child protection centre. She described the crucial role the centres have played in helping children to become expressive again after the trauma they have experienced. “In the beginning the children wouldn’t talk. They were totally quiet but in the last six months there has been tremendous improvement in their participation. Without this child-friendly space these children would be roaming the streets,” she said.

Samina Gul, an IRC child protection manager, explained how the trauma of losing homes and schools can be compounded by the loss of daily routines like attending classes and playing with friends.

The centres have been providing children with needed routine and reassurance.

Each centre was staffed by an adult supervisor and two volunteers from within the community. Supervisors attend a three- day training workshop to introduce them to participatory teaching techniques and alert them to ways to handle children’s psychological trauma.

Three to 18 years old girls and three to 16 years old boys attend the centres, with most children participating for more than three hours a day. The time the children spend at the centres helps their parents to carry out crucial rebuilding work, the statement added.