Citizens for Justice and Peace

Thousands of children need urgent psychological support in Papua New Guinea

11, Apr 2018 | CJP Team

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 25,000 children in Papua New Guinea urgently require psychological support after the country suffered multiple crippling earthquakes, the Guardian reported. A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the country on February 26; nearly 200 aftershocks have occurred in the last 40 days, some of which were 6.5 magnitude. Papua New Guinea’s government has estimated that 270,000 urgently need aid, including 125,000 children. According to WHO, 15% to 20% of these children need psychological assistance. Karen Allen, UNICEF’s representative to the country said the dearth of shelter and water, and risk of disease exacerbate psychological trauma. “Children are still being confronted by fear, loss, confusion, family separation, deteriorated living conditions and disruption of social and school activities,” Allen said, adding, “Psychological damage among children should not be overlooked.” According to Allen, children who have experienced trauma are more at risk of self-harm, depression, anxiety, suicide, and delayed development. The country’s Hela province, one of the regions most impacted by the earthquake, has seen fresh violence, and several thousand people have been displaced. “It is children who are witness to this and sometimes even become involved in it, either as victims in some cases – when they’re shot or they’re slashed – or sometimes the men put the weapons in the hands of children,” Allen stated, adding, “There are children even under the age of 10 running around with weapons. It’s this normalisation of extreme violence that will affect children the most.” The earthquake has impacted 100 schools, and five have been completely destroyed, resulting in 15,000 children not being in school. Prior to the earthquake, around 75% of children in Papua New Guinea reported suffering physical abuse, according to UNICEF. Around 80% reportedly suffer psychological abuse in their lifetime. 


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