Child Protection Issue Brief: Mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of children

The insecurity experienced by displaced and refugee children can have damaging physical, social and psychological consequences affecting their well-being and development. In contexts of forced displacement, parents and caregivers may have difficulties in caring adequately for their children when livelihood options have diminished and essential services are no longer operational. Parental distress also greatly affects and impacts the well-being of their children. Changes in daily life and routine (such as school interruption), sudden and abrupt separation from family, friends and familiar places, as well as other child protection risks can greatly impact a child’s psychosocial well-being.

All children have the right to protection and care that is necessary for their well-being (the Convention on the Rights of the Child, art. 3). Children who have been exposed to traumatic events during conflict or displacement or who are victims of abuse, exploitation, neglect have a right to physical, psychological recovery and social reintegration in an environment that fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child (art. 39).

Therefore, it is essential for UNHCR operations to take actions to preserve and improve the well-being of displaced and refugee children, by mainstreaming psychosocial support in all aspects of its work as well as implementing specific psychosocial support programmes. The mitigation of immediate and long-term risks and consequences for the mental health and psychosocial well-being of individuals, families and communities is a core part of UNHCR’s protection mandate. This brief presents recommendations for strong collaboration between specialists and sectors to ensure a holistic and child-centered response that fosters the well-being of all children.

Published 2019-01-04

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