In February 2022, the European Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry issued a positional statement on the impact of war. At the time of writing, the war in Ukraine is still ongoing. As of December 6, 2022, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) recorded 7,832,493 refugees from Ukraine across Europe, 90% of whom are women and children.
The devastating consequences of war and armed conflict for children and adolescents are undeniable. Clinically, we see the urgent need for resources in the area of child and adolescent mental health, particularly trauma-informed care as well as to take over care when children and adolescents were already diagnosed and cared for in Ukraine before migration. Access for this vulnerable group of children to translation services and implementation of stepped-care approaches is of utmost importance. Therefore, we need to accompany clinical and welfare activities in this area with sound research to allocate resources appropriately. However, research funding still follows policy issues with a long delay due to review processes and administrative hurdles. It makes no sense for immediate aid to be made available but for accompanying research to take two or more years to begin. That is why we recommend more flexible and directly available research funding for data documentation, in order to prospectively evaluate the offered interventions in crisis settings.
ESCAP’s Policy Division has its strong role in advocacy for all children with mental disorders and mental health problems. Due to the various crises and hardships, resources for all children (refugee children as well as native and other migrant children) have become inadequate. After two years of ongoing crisis, we need a political focus on child and adolescent mental health as a matter of solidarity with the young generation, which has faced particular hardships in the first restricted phases of the Corona crisis. In order to prevent a further increase in mental health problems in vulnerable children, we point to early intervention as the only way to reduce the growing inequalities and injustices.
This, of course, applies to all humanitarian crises, not just the war in Ukraine. We have seen across Europe how governments and society in general have warmly welcomed Ukrainian refugees. Access to healthcare and work permits have been granted more easily and quickly than usual. And accommodations were often offered in families rather than in mass shelters. This is not a criticism of the way the situation has been handled, but a call to offer the same level of welcome and care to all minor refugees, regardless of their home countries.
In our role as child and adolescent psychiatrists, we want to draw attention to the current situation and what still needs to be done in the clinical care, research and policy areas.
Jörg Fegert (ESCAP Policy Division Chair), the ESCAP board: Maeve Doyle, Stephan Eliez, Johannes Hebebrand, Manon Hillegers, Anne-Marie Råberg Christensen, Andreas Karwautz, Eniko Kiss, Konstantinos Kotsis, Milica Pejovic-Milovancevic, Jean-Philippe Raynaud; ESCAP Policy Division members, Dimitris Anagnostopoulos (ESCAP President)
Published 14 December 2022
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