Five new Child Friendly Spaces for the quake zone

Five new Child Friendly Spaces for the quake zone

After the earthquake, children have very few toys to play with.
UNICEF/China/2014/Wang Xiaolin
09 September 2014

Tong Tong was lucky. When the earthquake hit her hometown in the afternoon of 3 August, 2014, she was picking pepper seeds in the field with her grandparents. 8-year-old Tong Tong lives with her grandparents in Qiaojia County, next to Ludian County which was the epicenter for the August Yunnan earthquake.  Tong Tong was not hurt physically but her house collapsed and everything has been buried in the ruins. Now, she has to stay in a tent with her grandparents, and has nothing to play with. 

After the earthquake, she missed her father more than ever. He works in Fujian Province and returns home to visit her only once a year during the Spring Festival. She has not seen her mother for years. Her mother left the family a long time ago and has never contacted them since then. 

As the only child of the family, Tong Tong always seems to look lonely and she never smiles. “I wish to have a doll and some friends to play with me.” She said.

“Caregivers are busy setting up the tents and rebuilding their lives. At this stage, they do not have enough time to accompany the children, to meet their emotional needs, “ said Zhou Ye, Child Protection Specialist of UNICEF China. Coming back from a field visit to the areas seriously affected by the earthquake, she thinks Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) are needed urgently. “We found that children play between the narrow lanes of the tents and even at some dangerous places such as abandoned buildings. They really need a safe and interesting place to stay and have fun.”

While the caregivers are busy setting up tents and rebuilding their lives, some children are playing on the hillside, which is very dangerous.
UNICEF/China/2014/Zhou Ye
While the caregivers are busy setting up tents and rebuilding their lives, some children are playing on the hillside, which is very dangerous.

UNICEF is working with the Office of the National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council (NWCCW) to set up five Child Friendly Spaces, which is an innovative model of community-based support for vulnerable children. 

In the quake zone, many children are affected by the population migration like Tong Tong. In Xinping village, Qiao Jia County, 90% of the men in the village have migrated to work in other places while children, women and elderly people are left behind. How to support children affected by migration is already an existing issue for attention.

“The Child Friendly Space is not a temporary setting, it will serve as a long-term community-based center for children”, Said Zhou Ye. “The model has been proved to be a good example of how post-disaster reconstruction can become an opportunity to address pre-existing problems.”

After the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, UNICEF and NWCCW set up 40 Child Friendly Spaces throughout the earthquake zone. Being recognized as a powerful tool for the long-term psycho-social support for the children affected by the emergency, the Child Friendly Space project has helped over 300,000 children and parents to recover from the earthquake.It has been so effective that 36 of the Child Friendly Spaces have been transformed into permanent development centres for children.

Soon, Tong Tong will have a safe place to have fun with her peers. Hopefully, this will help bring back some smiles to her face. 

Note: Tong Tong's name has been changed to protect the privacy of the child.