Clowns help heal children affected by Myanmar conflict

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1 May 2014, Yangon: A group of clowns have been providing laughter and entertainment for 2,500 children from camps for internationally displaced people (IDP) in Myanmar, says Plan International.

As part of its work to support IDPs in Kachin, Plan International, with the support of UNICEF, teamed up with Clowns Without Borders, an organisation dedicated to alleviating suffering in disaster or conflict situations.

The group of 3 clowns recently visited 7 IDP camps in Myanmar, providing entertainment in the form of juggling, acrobatics and other forms of circus-oriented performance activities.

A protracted conflict in Kachin State has led to the displacement of over 100,000 people. Due to prolonged displacement, children now face critical protection concerns.

Blending fun with support

Dr Unni Krishnan, Head of Disaster Preparedness and Response from Plan International, said:

“In such emergency settings, it is normal for children and young people to become distressed. Some might have nightmares or trouble sleeping, while others can become fearful and aggressive. These are all normal reactions to an abnormal situation”.

“This innovative approach, which blends fun with psychosocial and humanitarian support, can reach children and help them heal faster.”

Through performances, song and dance, Clowns Without Borders created a show that provided a safe space for children to express their emotions, build their confidence and heal through laughter, while incorporating the importance of safety, education and hygiene into their show.

Emotional outlet

Louise Frisk, Project Manager for Clowns Without Borders in Sweden, said:

“In our experience, this kind of show provides children an emotional outlet and helps youth and adults heal from traumatic events. Laughter releases tension and assists the healing process, while the clown is the mirror image of the human condition. Through the lens of the clown, the most absurd or overwhelming situations becomes more palatable and light.”

In light of the clashes in Kachin that affected tens of thousands of people, Plan remains concerned about the welfare IDPs and is calling for continued funding from the public to support its work in Myanmar.

Expanding aid response

John McDonough, Country Directory for Plan International in Myanmar, says:

“Despite the tensions, Plan is committed to continuing and expanding its support to deliver emergency aid to the most vulnerable groups, by closely coordinating with UN agencies, international NGOs and other organisations.

“IDPs continue to face critical protection concerns under prolonged displacement and we request all humanitarian activities to reflect the needs of displaced children and women in their priority interventions. We will also continue to support new IDPs in Kachin.”

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