Children in quake-affected areas face ‘serious health risks’


CHILDREN face serious health risks because of the trauma they suffered from the earthquake last month, according to a United Nations agency,
Karen Allen, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) representative in PNG, said the earthquake had left families devastated, homes destroyed, and victims displaced and traumatised in the four Highlands provinces.
“Children are still being confronted by fear, loss, confusion, family separation, deteriorated living conditions and disruption of social and school activities,” she said.
She said children in such conditions faced greater health risks such as mental health disorders, delay in brain development, anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide.
Even before the earthquakes, she said children in PNG had already experienced a high risk of violence and abuse.
“Available data indicate that girls and boys in PNG experience some of the highest rates of violence in the Asia-Pacific region.
“About 75 per cent of children report experiences of physical abuse and 80 per cent experience emotional abuse during their lifetime.”
A recent Medecins Sans Frontieres report showed that 12,000 cases of family and sexual violence are treated each year at the Tari Family Support Centre in Hela.
Unicef PNG, Unicef Australia, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund and the Government of Australia set up 26 children-friendly spaces to provide psychological support services to about 14,000 children in the severely affected areas of Hela and Southern Highlands.
These spaces will provide safe venues for children to receive psychological support to regain a sense of normalcy, play and learn life skills including good hygiene practice.