Egypt: UN launches initiative for children traumatized by recent violence

An injured boy chanting during protests at Tahrir square

23 February 2011 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its national partners in Egypt have launched a psycho-social support programme for children who were affected by violence during the uprising that led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak earlier this month.

“Children need help to come to terms with the violence and feeling of insecurity they have seen or experienced,” UNICEF country representative Philippe Duamelle said.

“All reported deaths and injuries, particularly of children, as well as reports of children being paid to participate in counter-demonstrations, and of children being detained, should be thoroughly investigated, and children’s rights fully protected.”

According to preliminary figures announced by the Ministry of Health and by human rights organizations, 365 people were killed during the events in different governorates, and thousands of people were injured.

The most seriously affected young people are the tens of thousands of children who live and work on the streets of Cairo and other major cities, according to UNICEF. Testimony from children living in the streets indicates that they were exposed to severe violence, witnessing people killed and badly injured.

The psycho-social programme will help children at risk in Cairo and Alexandria, as well as schoolchildren nationwide, to overcome their psychological distress. Social workers and teachers are being trained to identify signs of trauma and stress, provide psychological support and refer cases to specialized services when needed.

The training will also be offered via video conferencing to reach teachers across the country. Psychologists will provide special on-the-job coaching to teachers and social workers in the areas that were most affected.

According to Dr. Hashem Bahary, professor of psychology at Al-Azhar University, up to 30 per cent of Egyptian children may suffer from anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsion.


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