UNICEF rolls out psychosocial programme for Barbudan children

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(RELEASE)

UNICEF has rolled out a programme offering psychosocial support to children whose lives were disrupted when the devastating Hurricane Irma rampaged through the northern chain of Caribbean islands on 6 September 2017.

Displaced Barbuda children who were evacuated to Antigua are the first of those affected by Irma to benefit from the UN children’s agency’s “Return to Happiness” programme, which uses strategies and activities to help in emotional recovery from trauma. It will also be implemented in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla as soon as conditions are favourable.

“These children witnessed a horrific hurricane that teared their homes away, destroyed their schools and left the island they called home totally in tatters. They will need lots of help to deal with the trauma associated with those experiences. This programme is aimed at starting that process,” said Khin-Sandi Lwin, UNICEF Representative for the Eastern Caribbean who attended the launch of “Return to Happiness”.

Lwin explained that the intervention, which is being conducted by trained professionals drawn from across the Caribbean, will use a mix of play-related activities, drawing, music and physical activities to help children come to terms with the trauma they have experienced. The two-week programme is principally aimed at children aged 5-12.

Josea Charles, a mother of three, said she saw great value in the Return to Happiness. “What I like about this programme is that for the first time it gave them a chance to talk about what had happened and how they felt. I also like that they got to share what they look forward to in the new Barbuda,” she added.

Khin-Sandi Lwin, UNICEF Representative for the Eastern Caribbean interacts with one of the displaced barbudian children during the launch of “Return to Happiness” programme in Antigua, in Saint John’s National Cricket Stadium. Displaced Barbuda children who were evacuated to this shelter are the first of those affected by Irma to benefit from the UN children’s agency’s “Return to Happiness” programme, which uses strategies and activities to help in emotional recovery from trauma. It will also be implemented in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla as soon as conditions are favourable.UNICEF today rolled out the programme offering psycho-social support to children whose lives were disrupted when the devastating Hurricane Irma rampaged through the northern chain of Caribbean islands on

In the East Caribbean islands, which first bore the brunt of the Category 5 hurricane, the greatest damage was recorded in Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Some 73,000 people, including 20,000 children, are affected in this area and at least 132 schools have been damaged.

Lwin said UNICEF assessment teams still on the ground in the other affected countries are getting a detailed look at the situation for children, but authorities are gearing up to start up in Anguilla and British Virgin Islands. Children in Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands are expected to start “Return to Happiness” next week.

“In Tortola (BVI) and Anguilla, the scale of the devastation is such that a lot of our government partners are themselves having to come to terms with the destruction of their personal properties. To add to this, in a lot of cases their offices have also been damaged so it will be a long climb back,” the UNICEF Representative added.

In addition to offering psycho-social support, UNICEF has already deployed additional staff and humanitarian supplies, including water purification tablets, hygiene kits, tents and educational material.

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