We’re reaching out to children traumatised by the conflict in Libya

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IT has already been used to help child survivors of the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan overcome their trauma.

Now, charity workers from Edinburgh-based Mercy Corps are using the same psychological support programme – Comfort for Kids – to reach out to children in Libya.

The programme combines a psychosocial training workshop for adults with an interactive workbook that helps children tell their story of how they have been affected by the conflict in Libya.

Around 5000 children and 500 parents and teachers in Benghazi, Misrata and the Nafusa mountains will benefit from group counselling, play activities and sports before the end of the year.

Ashley Proud, programme officer for Mercy Corps, spent two weeks in Benghazi last month. She said: “Misrata was under siege for a month and a half so children were exposed to a lot of violence.

“Kids have all kinds of responses to traumatic situations and they’re usually very resilient, but the focus on the younger group is to work with teachers and parents so that they’re able to recognise actions from kids that aren’t normal and know how to deal with them.”

There are two psychological support programmes being used in Libya – Comfort for Kids, which is aimed at five to 11-year-olds, and Moving Forward for 11 to 18-year-olds.

Comfort for Kids includes football, volleyball and putting on plays which integrate some of the children’s experiences during the conflict.

Moving Forward features similar activities, with the youngsters also getting involved in community activities.

Ms Proud, 33, said: “In Libya, the rubbish collection system is not working at the moment so Moving Forward includes sweeping the streets and taking the rubbish out of the city centre.”

Ms Proud, who lives in Marchmont, said: “We have also been doing emergency programmes; evacuating people who are working in Libya who are not Libyan and distributing food.

“We are looking at working with the new government to help them set up new government structures.”

Mercy Corps has funding for the psychological support programmes in Libya – which together cost around £170,000 – until December, and hopes to extend it into next year.

Ms Proud said: “Setting up a new government is quite a big challenge, and I think it will take a long time for that to be put in place. It’s not just the removal of Gaddafi – it will be a long road to recovery.”

laura.cummings@edinburghnews.com