Picking up the Pieces: Rebuilding the lives of Mosul’s children after years of conflict and violence
The report, based on a survey of children and their parents, contains first-hand testimony from adolescents who lived in the city of Mosul when ISIS occupied the area and follows one year on from Save the Children’s report An Unbearable Reality (July 2017), the largest study on children’s mental health since the outbreak of the conflict in 2014.
Our new research, conducted in May 2018, highlights that past traumatic experiences and daily challenges that children face in west Mosul has a profound impact on their mental health. Children said they were experiencing intense sorrow and extreme sadness, with nearly 43 per cent reporting feeling grief always or a lot of the time. The lack of safety many girls and boys continue to feel is fuelling their inability to heal and is a key driving force for their worries. More than 80 per cent of adolescents surveyed said they did not feel safe walking alone and almost half did not feel safe away from their parents. Caregivers themselves are clearly burdened with their own problems, with 82 per cent citing poor economic conditions as their main source of stress. To add to the strain, many children are struggling to return to school because half of all schools in conflict-affected areas have been destroyed. Nearly one-third of adolescents reported never feeling safe at school, and only one-quarter consider school a safe space.
Unless children’s sense of safety is re-established, and parents given better tools to help themselves and their families, children’s stress management system will remain activated, leaving them at serious risk of further and long-lasting mental health issues. As plans begin to roll out for the recovery and reconstruction of Iraq, it is imperative that the international community puts the wellbeing of children at the core of rebuilding a hopeful future for Iraq by stepping up funding for mental health and psychosocial programming and ensuring it is a key aspect of emergency responses as well as recovery and reconstruction efforts going forward. An educated, productive and engaged young population is a key step for local, national and international actors to achieve a society that can enjoy long-term peace and stability.