16 May 2019, The Hague – Today, at the Stop the War on Children Symposium in The Hague, Netherlands, Education Cannot Wait and the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Collaborative launched a new partnership designed to mainstream mental health and psychosocial support for children and youth affected by wars and conflicts.
One in five of the world’s school-aged children live in countries affected by conflict. These girls and boys face increased risk of developing mental health and psychosocial problems due to the violence, trauma, fear and chronic adversity they experience. This combination may lead to “toxic stress” – a type of stress particularly damaging to a developing child’s brain architecture with potential lifelong impacts on children’s physical and mental health; their ability to grow, learn, develop; and their capacity to build the skills they need to become productive members of society.
Yet, in most conflict areas, there are few if any mental health and psychosocial support services specifically for children and adolescents, including a serious lack of capacity to care for children with higher level needs, such as developmental disability, exposure to traumatic events, or mental, neurologic and substance abuse disorders.
“Integrating MHPSS programming into the existing services that support and protect children, such as educational systems, is one way in which the service gap can be closed and by which we can ensure children can access opportunities for healing, recovery and learning,” said Dr. Leslie Snider, the Director of the MHPSS Collaborative.
With Education Cannot Wait expanding its investments in multi-year resilience education programmes to 25 priority crisis-affected countries in the next three years, the new partnership with the MHPSS Collaborative – a global platform for research, practice, learning and advocacy for mental health and psychosocial support – has the potential to reach 9 million children annually by 2021.
“Education Cannot Wait is a global fund designed to ensure children caught up in crises have access to education and we’re committed to ensuring that the education they receive support them in healing,’ said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Our support to education takes a holistic approach to ensure children’s wellbeing. We can’t ask a child who is suffering from the horrors of war and the prolonged stress and insecurity of daily life in conflict zones to learn numeracy and literacy skills as if it was business as usual. Only by helping them cope with their experiences, heal and recover can we help them achieve quality learning outcomes.”
Integrating mental health and psychosocial support within education not only ensures safe and nurturing learning environments, it has also been demonstrated to improve academic outcomes for children.
Education Cannot Wait, together with the MHPSS Collaborative and its partners, are calling on donors to support our efforts to increase the provision and quality of MHPSS via education in emergencies with US$50 million in dedicated financing to be channeled through Education Cannot Wait over three years through 2021. This funding will enable the development and demonstration of a Minimum Service Package for mental health and psychosocial services within the education sector. Furthermore, it will support the implementation of the package in five Education Cannot Wait Multi-Year Resilience Programme countries by 2021, providing critical support to build back better educational systems linked with other care and protective services.
The new partnership will help build capacity across the education sector to deliver lifesaving mental health and psychosocial support and effectively link educational systems with health, protection and social services, ensuring a critical safety net for children and their caregivers.
The MHPSS Collaborative will support the mainstreaming of such services through Education Cannot Wait’s investments, in coordination with the Global Education Cluster and other relevant coordination mechanisms.
The Minimum Service Packages for MHPSS within education, health and protection sectors in humanitarian response is an initiative of UNICEF and WHO.
Photo: Dr. Leslie Snider and Yasmine Sherif at the Stop the War on Children Symposium. Photo Michael Corlin/ECW.
About Education Cannot Wait (ECW)
ECW is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies. It was launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings. ECW’s investment modalities are designed to usher in a more collaborative approach among actors on the ground, ensuring relief and development organizations join forces to achieve education outcomes. Education Cannot Wait is hosted by UNICEF. The Fund is administered under UNICEF’s financial, human resources and administrative rules and regulations, while operations are run by the Fund’s own independent governance structure.
The MHPSS Collaborative is a global platform for mental health and psychosocial support research, practice, learning and advocacy. We connect key academic and humanitarian actors with local civil society to give children and families in fragile circumstances the possibility to thrive, to learn and play, and to develop to their full potential. Based upon meaningful relationships and local realities and solutions, the collaborative: Convenes local to global stakeholders for MHPSS sharing, exchange, learning and innovation; Facilitates interagency MHPSS implementation science to promote innovation, quality and scale; Engages local communities of practice to lift learning from local MHPSS innovation to global exchange; Disseminates MHPSS knowledge, evidence and resources; and Champions the critical contribution of MHPSS to the recovery and survival of children and families in fragile contexts through evidence-based advocacy and policy.