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DSWD deploys psychosocial responders to assist conflict-affected children in Agusan del Norte town

DSWD psychosocial responders
Social workers and development workers of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Field Office-Caraga conduct psychosocial intervention to children who were affected by an armed conflict in the border of Tubay town and Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte last February 23.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), through its Field Office Caraga, deployed on February 29 some 17 social workers and development workers to help children cope with the emotional toll of the recent armed conflict incident along the border of Tubay town and Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte.

Some 332 students from Doña Telesfora Elementary School (DOTES) were provided with Psychological First Aid (PFA) sessions carried out by the DSWD team led by Retained Community-Based Services Head Michael Andohuyan.

“The psychosocial first aiders brought the commitment of the DSWD to addressing the needs of the students who are recovering from the traumatic experience due to the conflict,” DSWD Asst. Secretary for Strategic Communications Romel Lopez, who is also the agency spokesperson, said on Monday (March 4).

The armed conflict happened near the elementary school on February 23 between members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Philippine Army (PA).

The provision of psychosocial aid is part of the assistance of the DSWD to the local government unit (LGU) and as requested by the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) of Tubay.

Conflict-affected children in Agusan del Norte

“The school principal wanted immediate psychosocial aid among the students to overcome the aftermath of a distressing encounter,” Asst. Sec. Lopez pointed out.

According to the DSWD spokesperson, agency responders observed the resilience of the affected children, noting their participation and openness in expressing their emotions regarding the incident.

“Based on the assessment of the social workers and development workers who conducted the psychosocial first aid, there are no significant signs of extreme stress among the children.

The results of the assessment affirm the readiness of these students to resume their studies without impediment,” Asst. Sec. Lopez explained.

DOTES School Head Liezel Santos expressed gratitude for the DSWD Caraga’s swift response, highlighting the reassurance that the agency has provided to the community, despite the challenges of distance and short notice.

“You made us feel that we are not alone nga naa mi support system na one call away lang na immediately ni respond sa amoa. With your presence also makaingon gyud ko nga na reinforce ang security nga nabati sa mga bata because nakita nila nga whatever circumstances may arise sa amoa, naa diay mga tao na willing mo-tabang and usa mo ana, with that nagpasalamat gyud ko mga ma’am ug sir,” Santos said in the local dialect.

(You made us feel that we are not alone, that we have a support system that is just one call away, and would immediately respond to us…. With your presence, I can also say that the security felt by the children has been reinforced because they saw that, whatever circumstances may arise for us, there are people willing to help, and you are one of them. With that, I am truly grateful, ma’am and sir.)

Doña Telesfora Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Chairperson Guyle Ochia, a social work student himself, showed appreciation for the DSWD Field Office’s timely intervention, emphasizing the critical importance of validating the mental health needs of vulnerable children in times of conflict.

Asst. Sec. Lopez reiterated that the DSWD, as the primary government agency mandated to uphold social protection, remains steadfast in its mission to safeguard the well-being of every individual, especially children in conflict-affected and -vulnerable areas.

The DSWD team was joined by other 13 social work interns currently affiliated with DSWD Caraga.

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