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Hear it from the field: Considerations for inclusive responses

Atfaluna, a national NGO from Palestine, shares their recommendations for inclusive approaches to supporting children in COVID-19.
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Hello, this is Fida Shurrab projects and fundraising officer at Atfaluna society for the children based in the Gaza Strip, Palestine. The Corona Virus pandemic has brought more suffering to children with disabilities, living in the Gaza Strip. In June, 2020 Atfaluna conducted research on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the persons with disabilities living in the Gaza Strip. Findings showed that 30.2 of people with this ability to state that there is a reduction in public services that are provided to them, due to the spread of COVID-19 in Gaza. While 87.4
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of the people with disabilities reported that the rehabilitation services for them are negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis situation. Finally, 62% of them reported that they are not engaged in the COVID-19 emergency response planning. While 94 of the interviewed person with ability to report the current e-learning approach is not inclusive for the children with disabilities. The Atfaluna responses for the COVID-19 situation in the Gaza Strip encompassed
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two major steps: One, conducting needs assessment to identify the needs of children with disabilities and what interventions can be provided to meet these needs; two, developing
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inclusive COVID-19 emergency response guidelines so that all the interventions can be inclusive to children with and without disabilities and adults with and without disabilities.
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The following was conducted: First, the Atfaluna services provided to the children continued remotely, and a new hotline was established so that the parents and the children keep the contact with the service providers. The Atfaluna school continued the educational classes remotely to 200 students with hearing disability. Teachers were trained on using the online platforms and delivering educational classes. Teachers trained the students and their parents on how to use the online platforms. WhatsApp groups were formulated where educational cards were shared with the students and their parents. Students who did not have access to internet were handed the educational cards through door-to-door modalities, and they were followed up through the hotline.
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Moreover, it was important to maintain the delivery of child protection and psychosocial support interventions. <v 1>The team conducted child protection workshops to more than 1000 families and</v> their parents, giving them knowledge and the skills of how to deal with the children during the times of crisis and home confinement. The workshops were conducted remotely and through inclusive videos and materials published online through social media platforms. Psychosocial
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support sessions were given remotely with the usage of the guidelines developed for fathers and mothers, to have parents have the role of psychosocial counselors for the children at their home, with regular consultation with the psychosocial specialists. WhatsApp groups for families and their children were formed. On a daily basis there were two hours of consultation provided to the families, either through the groups or individual sessions. The team provided consultation as well through the hotline that was launched during the pandemic. Weekly psychosocial activity kits were designed and distributed to the families through the online modalities. and they were given advice how to implement those activities with their children.
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The families who did not have internet connection reached out through the field team, with the printed materials, and they received the consultations through the hotline. To make the online modalities easy for the beneficiaries, the families and children received training on how to use Zoom application and Google classes that were used for conducting the counseling sessions. The following are the measures used to reduce COVID-19 effects on vulnerable
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children with and without disabilities and their families: inclusive awareness raising was a significant intervention; COVID-19 inclusive messages were developed and disseminated in inclusive and
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friendly formats that have same language interpretation: audio text,
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easy to read language and clear and accessible font of texts for children with and without disabilities. They took the forms of songs, cartoons, short stories, and short messages. Also, children received awareness-raising sessions through zoom and social media applications. All in all, Atfaluna’s main recommendations
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for pandemic inclusive responses are as follows: one, promote studies on the impact of COVID-19 on the health of children with disabilities. Two, identify and remove barriers to treatment, including ensuring accessible environments to hospitals, testing and quarentine facilities, as well as the availability and dissemination of health information and communications and accessible methods. Three, ensure continued access to medical and rehabilitation services for children with disability during the pandemic. Four, conduct training and awareness-raising of health workers to prevent discrimination against children with disabilities. Five, closely consult and work with actively-involved persons, with disabilities and their representatives organizations. and framing a rights based response to the pandemic that is inclusive and responsive to all the children with and without disabilities.
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Finally, ensure that children with disabilities have access to inclusive e-learning measures.

Hear it from the field! Watch the video to hear Fidaa, Project Officer with Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children, talk about inclusive approaches to supporting children during COVID-19.

Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children is a national NGO working in the Gaza Strip, Palestine.

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