In the midst of conflict and displacement, the children of Manipur have found solace through art and play therapy. With 12,694 displaced children currently residing in relief camps across the state, the government of Manipur, in collaboration with mental health professionals, has launched an initiative to address the trauma and psychological distress faced by these young victims.
One such child, 8-year-old Khamba (name changed), who lost his home during an arson attack on May 3rd in Churachandpur, has expressed his feelings through a series of pencil sketches. His drawings depict the horrifying attack on his village, capturing the armed miscreants, villagers trying to fend them off, and the destruction that ensued. Khamba's sketches offer a glimpse into the trauma experienced by these children.
According to data from the Department of Social Welfare in Manipur, there are 100 severely traumatized children among the displaced, necessitating professional counseling. Recognizing the importance of addressing their mental health needs, counselors are deployed to relief camps by District Children Protection Offices. These professionals identify and provide support to severely traumatized children who require specialized counseling.
Dr. Jina Heigrujam, a child psychiatrist, highlights the effectiveness of art and dance therapy in helping these children cope with their traumatic experiences. She explains that prolonged stress can lead to mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), childhood depression, and anxiety. Art therapy has emerged as a valuable tool in aiding their recovery.
A team of experts from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore has been working with local functionaries to identify and assist severely traumatized children. They employ play and dance methods to engage with the children and offer professional counseling. Through these efforts, children like 3-year-old Yaiphaba (name changed), who initially struggled to interact with others, have begun to recover and join in group activities.
During art sessions, children are encouraged to draw and express themselves through creativity. Some of the drawings reflect their traumatic experiences, like those of Khamba, while others illustrate happier subjects like ice candy, landscapes, and national flags.
Efforts are also being made to improve the conditions of relief camps to make them more child-friendly. UNICEF has provided a blueprint for setting up such camps, and the Department of Social Welfare is actively working on implementing these recommendations. Regular review meetings at the Chief Secretary's level are held to address any shortfalls in the care of children in the relief camps.
Additionally, concerns regarding the nutrition of children in the camps are being addressed, with severely malnourished children receiving treatment at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal.
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