children learn how to wash their hands in a refugee camp in Bangladesh

Learning Through Play: Caring for Children in Conflict

Action Against Hunger is providing hygiene lessons to displaced children in Bangladesh through play.

By Action Against Hunger

Dec 20 2018

In a refugee camp in Bangladesh, 15 children are gathered under a bamboo-covered patio.

Far from the violence and conflict in Myanmar, the children are laughing and giggling and the community volunteers have their work cut out trying to settle the class. Gradually, the children quiet and the lesson can begin: a role play explaining how germs are transmitted from person to person. Taking turns, the children act out and repeat the seven stages for washing their hands while remaining peers watch eagerly; learning through play is fun.

Habibur Rahman helps aid learning through songHabibur Rahman helps aid learning through song

A few alleys away, Habibur Rahman is singing a song, but the lyrics aren’t what you might expect. Habibur has been working with Action Against Hunger since 2009 and his involvement in water, sanitation and hygiene programmes is reflected in his music. Singing about hygiene, disease prevention and treatment, Habibur spreads his important message through song, helping fathers like Selim Kham:

“I have a 4 year old boy,” says Selim. “Now, every time my wife gives him some food, she makes sure that he has washed his hands before eating. In Myanmar, we washed our hands using only water. Now, we know that we have to use soap. These small details make a big difference.”

children in a waste workshop, where they learn through playChildren in a waste workshop, where they learn through play

In another part of the camp, a waste workshop is being held for the children. Each child is given a brightly wrapped ball, which they quickly unwrap in excitement, discarding the coloured papers in the muddy ground. The teacher then explains to the children the importance of throwing waste away effectively and that some materials can be recycled. 

“They learn quickly and share their knowledge with their relatives. It is extremely important to educate the new generation so that behaviours change”, explains Monina Yasmin, the water, sanitation, and hygiene project manager.

Caring for children in conflict

Learning through play and song is just one of many tools we use to care for children affected by conflict. Despite difficulties with access, Action Against Hunger still operates in 17 out of the 20 most conflict affected countries in the world. We distribute food, financial aid and hygiene kits to the most vulnerable displaced children and families. Our health and nutrition programmes provide assistance to pregnant and lactating women, and children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. In 2017 alone, we reached over 5 million people in conflict zones.

Images: Action Against Hunger