UNICEF supports child-friendly spaces on Tunisia-Libya border for children displaced by conflict 

UNICEF supports child-friendly spaces on Tunisia-Libya border for children displaced by conflict

A UNICEF volunteer
A UNICEF volunteer interacts with children at a child-friendly space in a transit camp on the Tunisian border with Libya. The camp hosts third-country nationals who had been living in Libya. UNICEF Image © UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0489/Ramoneda

Samia (not her real name), 7, is holding hands with other children as they move in a circle, singing a song in a child-friendly centre located in a medium size tent in the Shousha transit camp. Report by Roshan Khadivi

Before the unrest in Libya began almost a month ago, Samia and her parents lived near Tripoli. Now she lives in a refugee camp with approximately 6,000 people, all in small tents, near the Tunisian border with Libya.

Supported by UNICEF and Save the Children, activities in the child-friendly space include drawing, playing games and singing. They are led by female volunteers, mostly primary school teachers from the nearby city of Ben Guardene.

‘They feel safer’

In addition, UNICEF has deployed psychologists who meet with families and children in the camp to assess their needs and provide assistance.

“Many of the children, when they arrive, are extremely quiet,” says Monira, a UNICEF volunteer, as she takes papers and colouring pencils out of a UNICEF Early Childhood Development (ECD) kit for a drawing session.

“After few days, as they start to draw, play games and sing, then they feel safer and more in control,” she adds.

child-friendly space at a transit camp
A volunteer from Save the Children, one of UNICEF’s partners in the response to the Libya crisis, with children in the child-friendly space at a transit camp on the Tunisian border. UNICEF Image © UNICEF Tunisia/2011/Khadivi

Support for women

The child-friendly space in the Shousha camp has three shifts to respond to the needs of children from different age groups.

“Many of the mothers bring their children to the child-friendly space and then go to a tent set up for women by a humanitarian partner,” says Lisa Deter from Save the Children. “This gives them some free time, an opportunity to meet with other women, learn about the resources available and see how they can support each other as well.”

In the women’s tent, they learn about self-defense, amongst other topics. Two acts of aggressions against females by men in the transit camp were recently reported and are under investigation.

Third-country nationals

Since Samia’s arrival in Shousha three weeks ago, the camp has seen daily newcomers and many departures. The situation remains fluid as the conflict across the border in Libya continues.

UNICEF-supported child-friendly space
A child smiles as he speaks with a psychologist at a UNICEF-supported child-friendly space in a transit camp for people who have crossed the Tunisian border to escape conflict in neighbouring Libya. UNICEF Image © UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0488/Ramoneda

Most of the camp’s families are third-country nationals who left their home countries and went to Libya for better work opportunities. Samia, for example, was born to Iraqi immigrant parents who moved to Libya for a more stable environment and a better life. Now they are all in Shousha, looking into resettling in a new country.

Many refugees are unable to return home because of unrest in their countries of origin. Meanwhile, others are registering with various aid organizations to get help with going home. UN agencies are working with Tunisian officials and other partners to make arrangements for their safe return.

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