Child friendly spaces impact across five humanitarian settings: a meta-analysis.
Ager, Alastair; orcid: 0000-0002-9474-3563
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BMC public health, volume 19, issue 1, page 576
Humanitarian crises present major threats to the wellbeing of children. These threats include risks of violence, abduction and abuse, emotional distress and the disruption of development. Humanitarian response efforts frequently address these threats through psychosocial programming. Systematic reviews have demonstrated the weak evidence-base regarding the impact of such interventions. This analysis assesses the impact of Child Friendly Spaces (CFS), one such commonly implemented intervention after humanitarian emergencies. We completed baseline and endline (three-six months post-baseline) assessments regarding protection concerns, psychosocial wellbeing, developmental assets and community resources for a total of 1010 children and 1312 carers in catchment areas for interventions with humanitarian populations in Ethiopia, Uganda, Iraq, Jordan, and Nepal. We estimated intervention effect-sizes with Cohen's d for difference in mean difference scores between attenders and non-attenders - who proved comparable on baseline measures - by site. We then pooled findings for a meta-analysis summarizing overall impacts across domains. Amongst children aged 6-11, significant intervention impacts were observed through site-level analysis for protection concerns (Ethiopia, Cohen's d = 0.48, 95% CI 0.08-0.88), psychosocial wellbeing (Ethiopia, d = 0.51, 95% CI 0.10-0.91; and Uganda, d = 0.21, 95% CI 0.02-0.40), and developmental assets (Uganda, d = 0.37, 95% CI 0.15-0.59; and Iraq, d = 0.86, 95% CI 0.18-1.54). Pooled analyses for this age group found impacts of intervention to be significant only for psychosocial wellbeing (d = 0.18, 95% CI 0.03-0.33). Among children aged 12-17, site-level analysis indicated intervention impact for protection concerns in one site (Iraq, d = 0.58, 95% CI 0.07-1.09), with pooled analysis indicating no significant impacts. CFS can provide - albeit inconsistently - a protective and promotive environment for younger children. CFS show no impact with older children and in connecting children and carers with wider community resources. A major reappraisal of programming approaches and quality assurance mechanisms is required.