Caring for children in conflict: Child's play

By Claire Bardell

All children love to play, whether at home or away. Children in the Lake Chad Basin are no different.

Ibrahim and Mohamad: Playing their cares away

Ibrahim (14) is a car maker in Sayam Camp, Niger. He drives – or pulls - his prototype around the camp which is home to nearly 7,000 people. His young friends follow in awe. The body of the mini truck is made out of aluminium from empty tins of vegetable cooking oil. The tyres are created from used slippers and other rubber materials: “I saw the truck which brings water to the camp, and decided I could make it,” Ibrahim explains.

For Mohamad (13) it's a piece of art. He too draws his inspiration from life in the camp:

This is a drawing of this class where we come to learn and play at the refugee camp. Here I have also drawn the World Vision cars.

- Mohammed, 13

Mohamad goes to the World Vision-managed Child Friendly Space (CFS). While he is lucky to be learning at the camp, Ibrahim the car maker is one of many young refugees, affected by the Lake Chad Basin situation, not in school. While humanitarians work to get him and his friends back into education, Ibrahim has gotten himself into the business of making toys out of scrap so he and his friends can at least play.

This need for play - for some normality - is why we set up Child Friendly Spaces. They're amazing places where children can be children; safe, creative and cared for in the midst of upheaval and crisis. The proof of their success is their popularity with the children. When we started a new CFS in Sayam Forage refugee camp, 599 children signed up straightaway. Today more than 1,000 attend.

Unfortunately many children, mostly in transit camps, don't have access to CFS. Yet they still have an amazing capability to adapt. Children create toys out of old sardine tins and rubber. They make dolls out of empty plastic bottles.

Not even life threatening conflicts can dim the creativity and joy of play for little children.