Feeling Safe Enough to Learn in a Conflict Zone

Bethan McEvoy

Forced Migration Review, Issue 60, March 2019



In protracted displacement crises such as in Afghanistan, children are not only coping with past trauma, but are also experiencing ongoing fear and stress due to distressing experiences in their daily lives. In these contexts, psychosocial programming must depart from traditional approaches that address incidents that took place in the past and which are conducted in safety. Since December 2017, NRC’s Better Learning Programme (BLP) has sought to address the acute psychosocial needs of children affected by trauma by strengthening children’s awareness of risk and stress, teaching them coping skills (including both practical strategies to deal with risks, as well as calming techniques such as visualizing a ‘safe space’ to deal with stress), and creating a feeling of safety through play, creative expression and trust exercises. An evaluation of BLP has indicated a reduction in nightmares, distressing emotions and physical illness, an increase in interest in attending school and completing homework, and an increased sense of safety.