10 September 2009

World Vision helps children get back to school in Sri Lanka's displacement camps

  1. A long line of displaced people forms to receive World Vision relief supplies.
  2. World Vision is providing clean water in Sri Lanka’s displacement camps.
  3. Displacement camps already stretched to capacity are struggling to accommodate new arrivals. © STR New / Reuters
  4. A group of civilians emerge from the conflict zone. © David Gray / Reuters
  5. After being displaced multiple times, civilians are exhausted and in desperate need of help. © Stringer Sri Lanka / Reuters

World Vision is setting up special Child Friendly Spaces and Temporary Learning Shelters in the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). These provide a place for children to play.

"Thousands of children in the camps have a critical need for psychosocial support. Creating safe places for children to play helps keep them safe from the risk of abuse and neglect," said Suresh Bartlett, World Vision Lanka's National Director.

Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) have been set up in three camps which offer a safe, secure environment for young children to play and interact with their peers and essentially be children again. Eight Temporary Learning Shelters (TLS) provide facilities for emergency schooling enabling children to study and increase their knowledge.

Schooling is a means of restoring a sense of normalcy to the lives of children and can help them overcome distress. Education offers a regular routine, opportunities for self-expression and the chance to engage with peers – all vital elements of normalcy for children whose lives have been disrupted by conflict and displacement.

World Vision is working with the Ministry of Education to source teachers from the area and among the IDPs to work in the temporary schools.

Study packs containing exercise books, drawing books, pens, pencils, crayons, water bottles, clothes and school bags have already been distributed to 2,000 children who will be enrolled in the temporary schools. The children are all enthusiastic about the prospect of resuming their studies.

“I love to continue my studies here, I’m studying in Grade five but I have missed my classes for more than 5 months already. I don’t have any books with me to study, I only have a few clothes,” said 10-year-old Naharubikka.

Children are usually the most vulnerable group in any society. Conflict and displacement increases this vulnerability and presents another range of additional threats for children, including separation from their families, increased risk of abuse and exploitation, forced conscription and exposure to targeted violence.

Children and their families were frequently displaced – some more than ten times in a year often at short notice. They were forced to abandon some of their belongings as they moved from village to village in search of safety, clinging onto knapsacks hastily packed with their most treasured possessions.

There are over 60,000 children among some 200,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who fled the conflict zone and are accommodated in camps in the districts of Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka and in Trincomalee in the east.

World Vision is supporting these IDPs through the provision of water, shelter, food, non-food relief items and Child Friendly Spaces and Learning Centres.

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