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Schools: a safe haven for children

The massive displacement of islands’ populations of Lake Chad to the land areas as a result of Boko Haram-related violence has uprooted 1.3 million of children and placed them at high-risk of separation, abuse, exploitation and recruitment by armed groups. In the Lake Chad region, children who have fled and seek refuge in Chad are now given an opportunity to access education.

In this context, access to a safe school and learning environment often represents a rare opportunity of normalcy and future in the life of these children. A multi-country project in Lake Chad gives both teachers and students the tools to play a central role in securing and protecting that precious environment.

Dolgue Noel.Kousseri School
©UNICEF/2017/Azoura

Mr. Ngarnayal Ami, director of the Bagasola School, realized how vulnerable was his school. “We had no idea of the risks, even us adults. Without being aware, we were in constant danger”. While potential risks have not entirely disappeared, he confesses he feels more at ease, now that students have been trained. “They know how to distinguish between bad and good. They can identify a potential danger and, above all, they will know what to do to avoid it by taking shelter”.

The “Children of Peace” project in the Lake Chad Region, has trained teachers and children in psychosocial support, conflict and disaster risks management strengthening the school’s safety environment by better assessing vulnerabilities and establishing related mitigation measures. Both teachers and children were trained on and accompanied in conducting a vulnerability mapping and the development of preparedness plans. An exercise that have not only helped in raising their awareness on the risks they could face, but even more importantly, increased their capacity and power to identify hazards and school vulnerabilities in and around school and respond safely if facing those risks.

I will be ready to take the right actions if an incident occurs” tells Adam Mbodou, a 14-year-old in Matafo primary school, near Bol and under the “Children of Peace” project. “I learned how to help my teacher evacuate the students and how to protect them from harm’s way. I also know where to seek refuge after an evacuation.”

From reinforcing physical security measures, such as creating a second door as an emergency exit, to the awareness and knowledge of children and teachers alike on adopting the right measures in case of emergencies, the training has also provided basic tools for teachers in supporting recovery of children often affected by the hardship of their everyday life.

This was notably the case for Ms. Aheppa Zenaba, teacher of Grade 4 at the SODELAC school of Bol, who recognized the importance of the training in developing her ability to counsel children. « This little girl was traumatized when she arrived here” she remembers, telling us of the example of one of her school girls whose parents were killed by Boko Haram. “Thanks to the training, I was able to provide her with the support and advice she needed”.

More than 570 teachers have been trained so far on psychosocial support, conflict and disaster risks management, preparing in turn more than 34,000 school children, and bringing a change already recognized by all.

« The training brought a big change for the school, the students and even for the whole community » as summarized by Dolgue Noel, Director of the Kousseri school. « We are more reassured as mothers, to see that our children feel at peace » adds Falmata Mahamat, the president of the educating mother association of the school, who along with 20 others mothers are now playing an active role in supporting the school by educating other parents as well as teaching children about precautionary measures in case of danger.

With the “Children of Peace” project, there has been a before and after, not only for teachers and children in the confine of the school, but far beyond, in the community. Children, teachers, parents, community members must Know, Do, Plan, Prepare in case of danger or potential risk within their school, enabling therefore greater involvement of the community for the safety of their children.

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©UNICEF/2017/Azoura

The « Umbrella » exercise consists in identifying the risks and dangers that could occur in the school and making sure the school stays under the umbrella so that the raindrops (risks and danger) are retained by the umbrella. This technique permits to children to easily assimilate many tips on their safety.

 

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From November 2016 to November 2017, under ECHO-funded “Children of Peace” project, UNICEF piloted the development and implementation of school emergency response plans as well as the training so far of 579 teachers and 34,205 school boys and girls in psychosocial support (PSS) and conflict and disaster risk reduction (CDRR). 23,948 trained children took part in conducting a vulnerability mapping and developing a preparedness plans for CDRR. The initiative aimed at contributing to school’s resilience by supporting preparedness for mitigation of risks identified collaboratively by teachers, children, parents and children of peace focal points in the community. As part of a multi-country effort, the “Children of Peace” project has opened a door for boys and girls, in the Lake Chad Region, giving them access to a safe school and learning environment, thus expanding their opportunities for the future.

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A woman’s voice against cholera

In Chad, women are discrete except when it comes to raising awareness.

Ababa Abakhar is a well-known preacher in the community of Am-Timan, in the East of Chad. She decided to use her notoriety to raise awareness on the cholera outbreak and good hygiene practices to stop the propagation of this disease.

In the confine of her house, Ababa talked intensely of her commitment in fighting cholera. “I want to tell my sisters to take their courage with both hands and start cleaning their house and the street in front of their house so that we can leave free from diseases like cholera.

Ababa Abakhar, 45, is a highly-regarded figure in Am-Timan. Teaching women Koran, she is followed by more than 400 women who attend her sermons each Sunday. “Am-Timan is my home, and people know me” she reminds us naturally.

When the outbreak was declared, Ababa was already in great position to take part in the efforts to combat the spread of cholera. A position she endorsed quite early at the onset of the outbreak.

I went to see and visit the women who were sick in both the Cholera Treatment Unit (CTU) and their home. It helped me realize the urgency of the situation and I decided to include this issue in my sermons to women.”

With the trust of women in her community, Ababa supported health workers to pass the right messages to families, and more particularly change at-risk attitudes and behaviors which at first could appear to clash with ancient traditions.

It was hard for families to understand that they could not get the body back right away, like we are supposed to in our religion” explains Ababa. “I talked to the families to help them understand the risks of contamination. After talking to them, they understood that the body needed to be treated first and then it would be given back for burial without any risk of contamination.”

But for Ababa the main challenge lies in a much deeper issue, the one of hygiene. “You don’t need to wear glasses to see the hygiene issue in Am-Timan. Cholera is also due to this lack of hygiene. I really want to use my notoriety to make women change their ways so that this disease never comes back to Am-Timan again. The only solution is for the community to realize the situation so that they can act on it.”

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In getting communities mobilized and effectively improving hygiene behaviors, women are key. “The health of a child depends on his mother” explains Djiwerie Oussmane, president of ANNASSOUR, a women organization working in the district of Am-Timan. “If she understands how to prevent cholera she can have the tools necessary to assure the well-being of her child. Mothers are the core of a family.

Ababa was one of the 100 women trained by UNICEF’s partner ANNASSOUR to raise awareness of women in the community on children’s rights, and in relation to the seriousness of the cholera outbreak.

In our tradition, woman like Abbaba are very respected by our community because of their religious education and knowledge” continues Djiwerie. “When they speak out, everybody listen. If we want to get our message across we need to go through these canals.

UNICEF Chad-2017-Fafin-3.jpg

The support of Annasour helped Ababa to go beyond her sermons, and record a prevention message at the community radio “Darbadja”, explaining cholera transmission and prevention.

I want women to be aware that cholera is caused by bad hygiene practices and that we can easily avoid it if we take some measures like washing our hands with soap, sweeping our house, sanitizing the space where we sleep and treating the water before drinking it.

In the hand of a well-known women as Ababa, radio became an even more powerful mean to reach out to those other women in more remote and rural places who do not always have access to water points that can be found in the city.

Using the radio is a good way to reach women, especially the ones who are leaving the city to work in the fields. They need to treat the water they get from the pond or the river. It is important for those women to bring water purifier packets with them.”

Ababa’s commitment towards the well-being of her community is inspirational and shows the significance of religious leaders’ mobilization in the interest of reaching everyone, especially every woman.

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Since the beginning of the epidemic in the Sila and Salamat region, on August 14th 2017, more than 1,200 cases have been identified and 71 death registered. Thanks to the Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department of the European Commission (ECHO), UNICEF has supported community radios, religious leaders and women organization to raise awareness on cholera contamination and prevention, and prevent further escalation of the epidemic.

 

European Union provides €7.6 million to UNICEF to respond to multiple emergencies affecting children in Chad

N’DJAMENA (Chad), 10 November 2017 – The European Union, Chad’s leading humanitarian donor, is renewing its response to the immediate needs of children and women in the country. Through its grant of €7.6 million to UNICEF, it will help improve the lives of 112,500 people, including 91,000 children under the age of five.

Thanks to this support by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian aid Operations (ECHO), UNICEF will reinforce Chad’s health system to better the response to the nutritional crisis in the Sahel through the set-up of 77 new Nutrition Units (5 hospitals and 72 health centers). The grant will also enable UNICEF to improve access of children under 5 to nutrition services, including treatment for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). This will be done through the distribution and management of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), capacity building of 250 health community workers, support to national coordination mechanisms, deployment of 150 professional health workers, and the reinforcement of the nutritional surveillance system.

Health centers at district level will be reinforced with technical staff who will contribute to better monitor the implementation of activities and ensure continuity in quality service provision for children with Severe Acute Malnutrition. The project also foresees the setup of an innovative monitoring system through SMS text in phones to ensure more timely data collection and analysis.

Chad is currently facing multiple humanitarian challenges that range from population movements, such as refugees and returnees from Central African Republic, Sudan and Nigeria; to recurrent epidemics, including cholera; and the Sahelian food and nutrition crisis,” explains Philippe Barragne-Bigot, UNICEF Representative in Chad.

The Nutrition SMART Survey carried out in 2017 indicates that the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition stands at almost 14% and Moderate Acute Malnutrition at 10%, which is a slight deterioration from 2016. “Reinforcing Chad’s health system will support a better response to the nutritional crisis in the region. EU humanitarian aid funding is, therefore, key to reinforce national capacities and provide a more coherent response in close coordination with other sectors like water, sanitation and hygiene,” adds Mr. Barragne-Bigot.

Given the complex humanitarian situation in Chad, we need to adopt an integral approach maximising the response to the various emergencies. Providing life-saving assistance to children and women, who are most at risk, is a shared responsibility. This is why the European Union is renewing its commitment to address with UNICEF the urgent needs of children suffering from malnutrition and epidemics, particularly cholera,” states Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

In addition to the nutrition component, the EU-supported intervention will contribute to the development of contingency plans at regional level that will align with the National Contingency Plan developed in 2016. Two high risk regions (Hadjer Lamis and Logone Occidental) will be supported to conduct their risk assessment, emergency preparedness and regional contingency plans based on most likely hazards (epidemics, floods), and to make these plans operational. Cholera preparedness in particular remains a high priority for the sectors.

The European Union Civil protection and Humanitarian aid Operations (ECHO) is Chad’s leading humanitarian donor and among the five most important donors of UNICEF in this country. It has committed significant financial resources for Chad (more than €60 million in 2016 and €50 million in 2017), in order to address the most immediate needs of 1 million people.

About EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO)

The European Union, together with its Member States, is the world’s leading donor of humanitarian aid. Every year, through its Civil protection and Humanitarian Operations department (ECHO), the European Union helps over 120 million victims of conflict and disasters. Relief assistance is an expression of European solidarity towards people in need around the world. It aims to save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and human dignity of populations affected by natural disasters and man-made crises. Assistance to the most vulnerable is provided solely on the basis of humanitarian needs.

For more information, please visit the European Commission’s website: http://ec.europa.eu/echo. 

To find out more about the EU-UNICEF partnership, visit http://www.unicef.org/eu/

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For further information, please contact:

Maria Fernandez I Chief of Communication I UNICEF Chad
+235 66 36 00 42 I mfernandez@unicef.org I www.unicef.org/chad

Isabel Coello, Regional Information Officer for North, West & Central Africa, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO). Tel. +221 33 869 60 92, Mob. +221 77 740 92 17, Isabel.Coello@echofield.eu