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Welcome to the archives of Refugees Deeply. While we paused regular publication of the site on April 1, 2019, we are happy to serve as an ongoing public resource on refugees and migration. We hope you’ll enjoy the reporting and analysis that was produced by our dedicated community of editors and contributors.

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Deeply Talks: Refugee Children and Resilience

The scale of human displacement across the world means more children than ever are growing up without stable homes. In our latest Deeply Talks, we discuss lessons from child-development experts on how to build their resilience.

Written by Tania Karas Published on Read time Approx. 1 minutes
Primary school students in Mathare, Kenya, work on their lessons.

More than half of the world’s 24.5 million refugees are under 18 years old. They also comprise a large part of the world’s internally displaced. These children spend much of their childhoods uprooted from their homes – which affects all aspects of their development.

Much has changed recently when it comes to new approaches to their care. Some of the fundamentals, however, remain the same.

“If you take away a child from the person who loves and cares about them – and the younger they are the worse it is – they are displaced,” Dr. Lynne Jones, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and visiting scientist at FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, said at the Deeply Talks, arguing that healthy development starts with a consistent, loving home environment. “It doesn’t matter if you do that in an orphanage, or a stable city, or you do it in a refugee camp, or you do it in flight. If the child is separated from the people who protect and love them, they will suffer mentally. And the longer the separation, the worse the suffering.”

In a wide-ranging conversation, experts from Refugees Deeply’s community covered the psychological and physical effects of toxic stress on children, how to best care for displaced children with special needs, how lack of nutrition affects their development, and the best methods for educating children who’ve experienced so much trauma.

Sometimes, the best approach is to give them space to be children again.

“Taking a little bit of time before you start formal learning processes to focus on recreation and play-based approaches, using integrated art and music and drama – those can be really powerful tools for children because it helps them relieve their stress and feel more comfortable,” said Dr. Sweta Shah, the global lead on early child development for the Aga Khan Foundation. “Feeling comfortable and reducing their stress is critical so they can really concentrate and learn.”

You can listen to the full episode here:

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