EU, UNICEF to address mental health of 5,129 out-of-school children in Borno

As children continue to bear the brunt of the 12-year conflict in North-Eastern Nigeria, the European Union (EU) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have said they are providing at least 5,129 conflict-affected out-of-school children in Borno State with mental health support to strengthen their well-being, resilience, literacy skills and self-reliance.

Also included in the EU-funded Support to Early Recovery and Resilience Project, implemented by UNICEF, is the provision of vocational skills and non-formal education to at least 25,000 young people, the construction and rehabilitation of learning centres and the strengthening of education management information systems in six local government areas.

UNICEF’s Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, stated that too many children in North-East Nigeria are falling victim to a conflict they did not start and attacks against children must stop immediately because the scars of conflict are real and enduring for children.

He added: “In the meantime, we are committed to working with our partners to provide psychosocial and other support to conflict-affected children so they can regain their childhood and restart their lives.’’

EU Head of Cooperation, Cecile Tassin-Pelzer stated that “addressing the psychosocial well-being and development of children and teachers in conflict situations is an important part of re-establishing education provision and enabling children to re-enter schools safely.”

The project also supports vulnerable children across Borno with protection and health services, vocational and basic literacy skills, access to justice and security, under a holistic humanitarian intervention that has so far provided 15,552 out-of-school children with vocational training; 1,610 out-of-school children with literacy and numeracy skills and 5,194 children enrolled into integrated Qur’anic schools across focus LGAs.

More than 300,000 children have been killed in Nigeria’s north-east, while over one million have been displaced. A recent Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) needs assessment of conflict-affected children in north-east Nigeria revealed pervasive psychosocial distress manifesting as high levels of anxiety, suspiciousness, anger, aggressiveness, and hyper-vigilance.

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