Refugee children arriving in Armenia are showing signs of severe psychological distress, according to reports from UNICEF-supported social workers providing specialised care to children and families who have fled their homes in recent weeks.
Safe spaces for children
Social workers operating in two safe spaces that UNICEF established with partners in Goris, which can serve up to 300 children daily have reported that children are dealing with intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, fear and anger, manifesting in nightmares, bedwetting, and inconsolable crying. Others have shut down and become detached, leaving them unable to express emotions or connect with the situation around them.
30,000 displaced children have arrived in Armenia
More than 30,000 ethnic Armenian children have arrived in Armenia since the escalation of hostilities in their home communities two weeks ago. In addition to displacement, children arriving in Armenia have not been able to access quality education continuously and have lived in an unsafe or insecure environment with families reporting the fear of attacks.
"We are now seeing the extent to which these children have suffered. Displacement and hostilities, compounded by deprivation have wreaked havoc on their physical and mental health and psychological well-being. Without sustained support, children are at risk of bearing the effects of these deeply distressing events for years to come."
Investing in mental health and psychosocial support
“As we come together to mark World Mental Health Day, UNICEF calls for adequate investment in mental health and psychosocial support for children through the health, child protection and education systems. This is equally important not only in terms of early identification and immediate support but also in the long run as families will continue to deal with loss and post-traumatic stress," said Christine Weigand, UNICEF Armenia Representative.
UNICEF is on the ground in Armenia
UNICEF is on the ground, working with the Government of Armenia and other partners to help refugee children access the care and support they need to overcome the challenges they have faced. UNICEF is training and supporting front-line professionals to provide psychological first aid and psycho-social support. Together with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF has formed mobile pediatric teams to enable wider outreach across the country to ensure screenings to identify and respond to mental health needs.
Emergency appeal for Armenia
UNICEF is appealing for US$12.6 million to provide critical services including education, health, child protection, nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene in the first six months.