Somalia: Caring for children affected by conflict and drought

7 May 2012

Conflict can have overwhelming and emotionally devastating effects on children. Child-Friendly Spaces provide a sanctuary, with psychosocial support delivered through structured and supervised play and learning activities. Credit: OCHA Somalia/ Orla Fagan
Humanitarian funding helps Save the Children set up child-friendly spaces and provide psychosocial support to displaced children in Garowe.

Jawle camp lies on a windswept plain north of the town of Garowe, in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland. Some 1,500 displaced families from all over the country live in temporary shelters at the camp. Many have travelled great distances to escape conflict or severe food shortages in their villages to enjoy the relative security of Garowe.

Most of those living in Jawle are women and children. The men, who arrived at the camp with their families earlier this year, have returned to their farms for Somalia’s main planting season in April and May.

Alafia and her children travelled for 10 days overland from Mogadishu, the capital, to reach Garowe. Her husband, a stonemason, stayed behind in Mogadishu to look for work. Alafia is now left to provide for her young children.

“I would like to go back to Mogadishu, but must remain here and do my best for the children,” said Alafia, a 28-year-old mother of four. “My husband continues to look for work at home, but we cannot afford to return.”

Until recently, the camp offered few services for the families. But Save the Children worked closely with the community to access funding through the OCHA-managed Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) to improve conditions, particularly for children.

The NGO recently set up a Child-Friendly Space (CFS), where children from the camp receive informal schooling as part of a feeding programme. The CFS is still in its initial stages and caters for 50 children a day, but it is expected to expand its services to benefit more of the 650 children registered in the camp.
  
Conflict can have overwhelming and emotionally devastating effects on children. The CFS provides a sanctuary, with psychosocial support delivered through structured and supervised play and learning activities. It provides a place to relieve stress and fear, and an opportunity to recover through a sense of normalcy.

The regular school in Garowe is out of reach for many of the camp’s children. “I can’t send the children to school because it is too far away,” Alafia said. “As soon as space becomes available, I want my children to attend school here at the camp.”

Save the Children provides monthly food rations and treatment for malnourished children. It is also working to provide latrines and fencing for the camp’s residents.

Reporting by OCHA Somalia/ Orla Fagan

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