Prioritise mental and emotional needs of children in country’s recovery plan

Prioritise mental and emotional needs of children in country’s recovery plan

Across virtually every key measure of childhood, progress has gone backward in the 12 months since the pandemic was declared, leaving children confronting a devastating and distorted new normal, says Unicef. Photo: 123rf.com Ten-year-old Nurfaraiin is terrified of losing her parents to the coronavirus. Every day when her father, a delivery service rider, and mother who is a cleaner, leave for work, Nurfaraiin cries. She is afraid they will come home with the virus, be taken away to the hospital and die.

“Nowadays, she cries a lot, ” says her mother, Nora, 39. “She follows me around the house and when I have to leave for work, that’s when she starts crying. She says she’s afraid I won’t come back.”

News about the number of cases and Covid-19 deaths every day and the constant reminder to follow SOPs have made the little one anxious. Her anxiety is worsened by the isolation of staying home from school and not being allowed to play with her friends for many months now.

“She says she has no friends. She has not been able to join online classes much because we both take our phones to work, ” says Nora.

Children, like Nurfaraiin, are feeling the impact of the pandemic because their lives have changed so drastically because of the pandemic and the different iterations of the movement control order over the last 15 months.

According to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), How The Covid-19 Pandemic Has Scarred The World’s Children, at least one in seven children and young people around the world lived under stay-at-home policies for most of 2020, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression and isolation.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has upended the lives of families around the world. Across virtually every key measure of childhood, progress has gone backward in the 12 months since the pandemic was declared, leaving children confronting a devastating and distorted new normal, ” the report stated.

The impact on children, says play therapist and child advocate Madeleine Yong, cannot be ignored. The psycho-social health and well-being of children must be prioritised in the country’s pandemic recovery plan.

“Children are anxious, they are scared and they need help, ” says Yong, co-founder of children’s therapy centre, Power of Play. She is also the co-founder of children’s rights NGO, Protect and Save the Children.

“Many are anxious about the virus and some have developed obsessive compulsive behaviours such as washing their hands constantly because they worry about catching the virus.”

“The government must look into the psycho-social needs of all children. There isn’t one plan that will work for all children as they all have different needs. Bring in a multidisciplinary group of professionals (who work with children) to deal with children’s issues […]

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