• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

A Centre to care for vulnerable children in Nepal

News Stories, 14 August 2012

© UNHCR/P. Ghimire
Children sing and dance to the tune of a Nepali rhyme in the Early Childhood Development Centre near the Sanischare camp hosting refugees from Bhutan in eastern Nepal.

DAMAK, Nepal, 14 August (12 (UNHCR) Four-year-old Kriti shouts greetings to all visitors at the Early Childhood Development Centre (ECDC) near the Sanischare refugee camp in eastern Nepal; a transformation from a year ago.

"He was a very difficult child. He used to cry and remain aloof some of the time," remembers Durga Wagle, facilitator at the Centre. Now Kriti is popular for being the most enthusiastic and bright.

Kriti went through a very difficult period. His father was an alcoholic and his mother unable to cope, left the family and remarried. Kriti lives with his 50-year-old grandmother who cannot provide good care and attention as she works outside the camp during daytime. Many times Kriti is alone during the day, depending on neighbours for any help.

The ECDC built by the UN refugee agency supports more than 30 children like Kriti in the age group of two to five, both from the refugee and host communities. It was built near the Sanischare camp for easy access for both communities. The camp still hosts some 10,940 refugees from Bhutan who came to Nepal in the early 1990s.

The concept behind the Centre is to help children who are vulnerable to face protection risks as their parents leave them with inadequate or no supervision when involved in their daily activities.

"Looking at the desperate situation of many children like Kriti both in the camps and in the host community, we felt the need for a special day care facility which provides a safe and nurturing environment for these children," said Sangita Khatiwada, Senior Protection Assistant at UNHCR's sub-office in the eastern Nepal town of Damak.

Sangita added: "This centre has helped the parents concentrate on their daily activities and at the same time has given their children a learning opportunity based on early childhood development and education principles."

Children attending the Centre come from different and difficult backgrounds. "Some are from families who are very poor; some with domestic violence issues, and others with separated or disabled parents. All these factors could potentially lead the children to be more exposed to protection risks," said the supervisor of the Centre, Ramesh Adhikari.

The Centre is run by a 12-member management committee involving both refugees and host communities. "It has become a solid example of good cooperation and relationship between the two communities," said Eirin Broholm, Associate Community Services Officer at the UNHCR Sub-Office.

Parents drop off their children at the Centre at around eight in the morning. The classroom soon becomes a busy and fun place.

Devi Chaudhari, a single mother from the village adjoining the camp brings her three-year-old daughter every day to the Centre. "We are lucky that we got this facility. The activities at the Centre have helped a lot in the overall development of my daughter and helped me concentrate in my activities," said Devi.

Listening to stories, dance and music, painting, and building with small plastic blocks keeps the children busy at the Centre. The "outside time" is the favorite for all where they play to their heart's content. Mealtime is fun time where some share and eat their home-made lunches and some of the youngest are fed by the helpers. By four in the afternoon, the children bid goodbye and leave for home with their parents.

"We receive requests from a large number of parents but due to the funding and space constraints the Centre has been able to provide services to a limited number of families only," added Durga Wagle.

UNHCR regularly monitors the activities at the Centre and funds for training needed for the facilitators and teachers.

"It is really nice to see the happy faces of these children. The Centre has ensured that vulnerable children from both communities have access to quality care arrangements and has increased opportunities for vulnerable refugees and host community mothers," said Sangita.

By Pukar Ghimire and Nini Gurung in Damak, Nepal




UNHCR country pages


Almost half the people of concern to UNHCR are children. They need special care.

Refworld – Children

This Special Feature on Child Protection is a comprehensive source of relevant legal and policy documents, practical tools and links to related websites.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

UNHCR aims to help 25,000 refugee children go to school in Syria by providing financial assistance to families and donating school uniforms and supplies.

There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

Some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees are children who have sought shelter in urban areas with their families. Unlike those in camps, refugees living in towns and cities in countries like Iraq, Turkey and Jordan often find it difficult to gain access to aid and protection. In a refugee camp, it is easier for humanitarian aid organizations such as UNHCR to provide shelter and regular assistance, including food, health care and education. Finding refugees in urban areas, let alone helping them, is no easy task.

In Iraq, about 100,000 of the 143,000 Syrian refugees are believed to be living in urban areas - some 40 per cent of them are children aged under 18 years. The following photographs, taken in the northern city of Erbil by Brian Sokol, give a glimpse into the lives of some of these young urban refugees. They show the harshness of daily life as well as the resilience, adaptability and spirit of young people whose lives have been overturned in the past two years.

Life is difficult in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The cost of living is high and it is difficult to find work. The refugees must also spend a large part of their limited resources on rent. UNHCR and its partners, including the Kurdish Regional Government, struggle to help the needy.

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

Afghan Street Children Turn from Beggars to Beauticians

A UNHCR-funded project in Kabul, Afghanistan, is helping to keep returnee children off the streets by teaching them to read and write, give them room to play and offer vocational training in useful skills such as tailoring, flower making, and hairstyling.

Every day, Afghan children ply the streets of Kabul selling anything from newspapers to chewing gum, phone cards and plastic bags. Some station themselves at busy junctions and weave through traffic waving a can of smoking coal to ward off the evil eye. Others simply beg from passing strangers.

There are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 street children in the Afghan capital alone. Among them are those who could not afford an education as refugees in Iran or Pakistan, and are unable to go to school as returnees in Afghanistan because they have to work from dawn to dusk to support their families. For the past seven years, a UNHCR-funded project has been working to bring change.

Posted on 12 November 2008

Afghan Street Children Turn from Beggars to Beauticians

Ethiopia: Far From Home Play video

Ethiopia: Far From Home

Nyabuka Lam arrived in Pagak, Ethiopia in September after escaping armed men who shot her three children and husband back in her home country, South Sudan. After walking for 15 days to reach the safety of Pagak, she is now finally on a path to recovery.
South Sudan: Grandma Abuk's ChildrenPlay video

South Sudan: Grandma Abuk's Children

Years of violence and bloodshed in South Sudan robbed Abuk of her seven children. When fighting returned last year, the old lady fled anew with her grandchildren, hampered by deteriorating eyesight.
Iraq: Children traumatised by the terror of flightPlay video

Iraq: Children traumatised by the terror of flight

When militants attacked Sinjar and other towns in northern Iraq in early August, tens of thousands of people fled into the mountains. They included many traumatised children, whose lives were brutally disrupted by violence and their sudden displacement.