ChildFund’s Signature Emergency Response: Child-Centered Spaces

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After Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, ChildFund was the first organization to provide Child-Centered Spaces to help children recover from the trauma.

Child protection is at the center of ChildFund’s emergency response programs because children become more vulnerable during emergencies. While parents and caregivers focus their energy on finding shelter, food, water and emergency assistance, children are often left unsupervised in chaotic situations, putting them at greater risk for abuse, exploitation and harassment. Children are often separated from loved ones and exposed to levels of violence and destruction that have long-term effects on their psychological and physical development.

So, in the immediate aftermath of an emergency, ChildFund establishes Child-Centered Spaces to protect and promote children’s rights to safety and emotional well-being. CCSs are safe spaces where children and youth can play, socialize, learn and express themselves in a caring and supportive environment.

In a CCS, children find

  • Psychosocial care and support and referral to specialist services: Facilitators provide basic support for children dealing with distress and shock. They are also trained to recognize when children need to be referred for more specialized services, where available.
  • Age-appropriate informal educational activities: Children and adolescents attending a CCS will have access to literacy, numeracy and life skills classes through structured and supervised activities.
  • Health and hygiene education: Essential messages on health and hygiene promotion are taught in a CCS to reduce the risk of spreading communicable diseases. These messages can be shared with families and communities.
  • Recreational and sports activities: Safe and secure facilities and gender-sensitive recreation materials allow children a return to normalcy.
  • Improved or additional water and sanitation facilities: Safe drinking water, soap and hand washing facilities are available for children in the CCS. If necessary, ChildFund provides support for rehabilitating existing toilets. Such facilities help reduce the spread of disease, often a grave concern in the aftermath of emergencies.
  • Protection services: The CCS will act as a referral pathway for services needed by children and adolescents who have particular protection needs and vulnerabilities, including children with disabilities and survivors of violence. This is also an opportunity to identify the most vulnerable children and families and to advocate on their behalf for the services they need.

Some child-centered spaces are mobile, located at aid distribution sites, in evacuation centers or in existing Early Childhood Development centers or schools that are deemed safe. While mothers and fathers stand in the long lines for water, food and basic supply distributions, they can rest assured their children are busy in a caring, supportive environment.

Read more about how young volunteers help children — and themselves — through CCS.