Side event: Family a key social institution for addressing substance use, violence, mental health and promote sustainable development: Lessons learned from parenting under stress, in humanitarian settings and in the context of COVID19 and beyond

Waadih Maalouf, UNODC Prevention Treatment Rehabilitation Section (moderator)

Ambassador Muhammad Muhith: provides opening remarks. Thanks sponsorship and UNODC. The event is organized to share experience in Bangladesh.   Introduces speakers. We strongly believe that family is a key institution that shapes individuals, especially during the pandemic now.  Hopeful this event will encourage support to children.  Globally we need to fulfill SDGs.

Anres Finguerut, Chief of Drug Prevention and Health Branch (UNODC): provides opening remarks.  Thanks Bangladesh and contribution of funding governments. Will share positive experience of programs in Bangladesh with UNHCR.  Parenting is difficult and requires specific skills.  Parenting in humanitarian settings is even more challenging. The newly developed UNODC tools, takes account low income family programs and takes them into scale. This event will be followed by another one related to families.  Wish you an interesting discussion.

Muhammed Ahsanul Jabbar Director General of Narcotics Control, Bangladesh:  Drug abuse and risky behavior has become one of the major problems in recent times in Bangladesh due to the increase in supply and demand of illicit drugs. It has negative impacts on people, especially youth and children. Increasing consumption of drugs especially by children at 61.7% , seizures of Yaba has increased by 32.3%.  Amount of seizures of heroin also increases by 21.4%. Drugs are a problem and many social institutional structures need to come together.  Family remains core structure that influences and shapes resistance and resilience of children.  Family is the first line of defense against drugs.  Government of Bangladesh with UNODC implemented program with Ministry of Education as piloting site. In total 88 families were recruited to participate in the program.  Pilot was appreciated from government and families participated in the program.

Shah Mohammad Naheean (UNODC): collaborated with UNHCR and partner with Department of Narcotics Control. Also collaborated with Refugee relief and triple RC. Pre-piloted 3 cycles of strong families in Rohingya camps.  Small piloting with 11 families only to see how to implement in field level because very challenging when implementing in emergency context.  After result came out well, did 2 pre-piloting cycles with 100 Rohyingya families in 2 camps. 2 criteria were picked- families who were interested in the program, explain objectives of the program.  Secondly selected families children age 8-15 so parents will come as well. Caregivers and children were involved as per standard procedures and conducted over 5-6 months.  Responses were good, appreciated because nobody has talked about these issues with them in the camp.  People are often more focused on shelter, food, etc. Parents have never thought they need to connect with their children, spend more time together within the family, attention to each other. The refugee relief and repatriation officer suggested it should be scaled up with whole community as well.

Ms. Feroza Safay, National Facilitator of Strong Families program in Afghanistan: Strong families program designed for families in low income areas.  Helps caregivers, children, and families to deal with challenges, stress, and practice specific ways to feel better. A total of 20 facilitators trained by UNODC Afghanistan with 5 teams in main piloting teams. Assisted by 2 volunteers each.  First country that Strong Families program piloted. Govt and NGO participated.  Total 72 caregivers and 72 children selected.  Parenting skills, parenting outcomes, and mental health outcomes assessed.  Had significant impact on children impact.  Children with high scores at baseline benefitted most from program.  All sessions were interesting for participants such as caregivers learned how to deal with stressful situations in their life.  Helped families control stress. Many parents found it stressful to balance work, caring for children, maintaining household during Covid-19. Information on parenting during Covid-19 disseminated by UNODC to families. Plan to implement randomized controlled trial of strong families in 5 schools in Kabul to continue testing effectiveness of the program.

MA. Teresa A. Acda, Strong Families facilitator from Philippines:  Strong families program introduced in Palawan through training of trainers. Did an training with 20 participants.  Chose 2 locations in Cuyo island and Balabac, required extensive traveling to reach. Sometimes divided group due to high number of participants.  Assisted families in low income areas.  Key is to hold activities close to their home.  Separate activities for children ages 7-12.  Sometimes ask for interpretation in local dialect.  Challenges were there were too many children.  Caregivers recognize value to each other. Collected demographics data. Youngest is 25 and older is 36 years old. Close to 50% born in Palawan. Most participants were female. In terms of education, 93% had primary or lower education. The less children caregiver has the more likely the caregiver will not be working. The more children participants has, the lower the level of education.  Challenges is having too many participants joining.  Participants cannot read or write.  Presented program to local team and coordinate with communities.  Used materials in the area. Because of simplicity of the concepts, everyone can relate.  Implementation requires minimal costs.  Challenge is having good facilitator.  Program is effective tool for reaching vulnerable sectors.  Having incentives for participants will increase consistency in attendance.

Dr. Meaghan Thumath Clinician Scientist, Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity, University of British Columbia: Research on child custody loss on women who use drugs. Child custory removal disproportionately targets communities marginalized areas.  War on drugs is very gendered and more likely to impact.  Over 82 million women who use illicit drugs.  Globally, women are in prison for drug offences than any other crimes.  Impact on maternal health, have higher rate of mortality.  Women who have had child removed, experience more risk of overdose. 1.8 times more likely to have nonfatal overdose as well.  Burden of Covid-19, women who use drugs have not seen their child since the pandemic. Support of parenting classes have also halted. Women who use substance use a method of coping with trauma. Need comprehensive parenting programs and support. When children are removed from their mothers it should really be a last resort. Hope to offer training to health care providers and support women to regain their custody or visit their children as soon as possible. Sheway project helps parents without having them lose custody of the child.

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