Child-Friendly Spaces help refugee children hold on to childhood

New research from Columbia University shows that Child-Friendly Spaces like those set up by World Vision and other relief agencies in disaster or conflict areas give children and their parents more confidence about avoiding child trafficking and labor.

By Caleb Starrenburg, World Vision International, and Kathryn Reid, World Vision U.S.
Published April 15, 2014 at 12:30pm PDT

According to new research, Syrian refugee children who attend safe places for play and socialization have more confidence about avoiding child trafficking and labor than their peers who do not. Parents and caregivers say they have less concern for children’s safety if they take part.

Stability for children in post-disaster or conflict settings

The research outcomes have great relevance for World Vision and other child-focused relief agencies that cooperated with Columbia University to study the effectiveness of Child-Friendly Spaces.

Child-Friendly Spaces are frequently set up by World Vision to provide stability for children in post-disaster or conflict settings. More than 20,000 children affected by Typhoon Haiyan have attended World Vision Child-Friendly Spaces since the storm struck the central Philippines last November.

Along with support for education, the activity centers have been part of the programming World Vision offers for Syrian refugees. While the research reported on children at Domiz camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, World Vision's work with Syrian refugees is in Jordan and Lebanon.

‘Remember what it’s like to be a child again’

“Children are the most vulnerable group during conflict and in the aftermath of a disaster, both emotionally and physically,” says Heather MacLeod, World Vision child protection expert, “and we know the long-term impact of their exposure to devastating events can be huge if not addressed.”

It’s important for children to “remember what it’s like to be a child again,” says Heather. Child-Friendly Spaces make that possible.

“The [Child-Friendly] Spaces provide young people with a safe place to play, participate in activities, learn about their rights to health and protection, and experience healing from any trauma they’ve experienced. They also allow children to return to healthy routines and experience a sense of normalcy again.”

The spaces are designed to protect children from environmental risks, promote psychosocial recovery, and help communities become more capable of caring for children.

World Vision and Columbia University announced the findings from the third evaluation in a series designed to assess the effectiveness of Child-Friendly Spaces. Earlier studies were done in a Ugandan camp housing refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and among Somali refugees in Ethiopia.

Learn more

For a better understanding of the research on the effectiveness of Child-Friendly Spaces in disaster and conflict zones, see the following reports, which are part of the series of evaluations conducted by Columbia University and World Vision.

Learn more about World Vision’s work to help protect children around the world.

How you can help

  • Pray for children in conflict or disaster situations. Pray for their emotional and physical protection, and pray that they would have access to a safe haven away from conflict or disaster during their displacement.
  • Donate to help create Child-Friendly Spaces for displaced children. Your gift of $100 will provide a child with a safe place to play for three months.

Highlights

  • World Vision sets up Child-Friendly Spaces in post-disaster and conflict settings to provide stability for affected children.
  • The spaces are designed to protect children from environmental risks, promote psychosocial recovery, and help communities become more capable of caring for children.
  • New research from Columbia University reports that Syrian refugee children who attend safe places for play and socialization have more confidence about avoiding child trafficking and labor than their peers who do not.

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